UK parents penalised for flexible working requests, says TUC

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Asking for family-friendly working patterns leads to them getting fewer hours, worse shifts and in some cases losing their jobs, according to a TUC survey.

Half of low-paid young mums and dads are struggling to manage work and childcare, a new TUC report has revealed.

More than two in five (42 per cent) said they felt penalised at work when they asked for flexibility – telling the TUC they are subsequently given fewer hours, worse shifts or even losing their job.

The study of more than 1,000 low-paid mums and dads is part of the TUC’s new campaign for better jobs for parents.

The survey also revealed that many feel at the mercy of indifferent employers who can change their working hours on a whim. A quarter of parents told the TUC they had their shifts changed at short notice, and 19 per cent had been given their rota less than a week in advance, making planning childcare very difficult.

In addition, more than half (58 per cent) of mums and dads working in low-paid sectors like retail, hospitality and social care said that they didn’t know what rights at work they were entitled to. Nearly two in three (63 per cent) weren’t aware of their right to unpaid parental leave.

As a result half weren’t using one or more of their legal rights to time off. That meant they ended up taking sick leave or holiday to cover childcare – nearly a third had resorted to taking annual leave to cover their child being sick in the last year – and some were even prevented from leaving to look after their children in an emergency.

These working parents felt that language about “flexible working” and “work-life balance” didn’t apply to workers like them.

The TUC is calling for all workers – including mums and dads – to have the right to be notified of their shifts one month in advance. That will mean working parents can plan childcare commitments and do their jobs.

And the TUC is campaigning for all working parents – including zero-hours contracts workers, agency workers and those in casual work – to have the same parents’ rights, from day one in their jobs. Currently these rights are only available to workers with “employee” status – meaning 1.5 million workers won’t have access to these rights if they become parents.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door. But it’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat, and you never work the same weekly hours twice.

“Many parents fear losing shifts, taking unpaid leave or being viewed badly at work if they need time off to look after their kids. And it is shocking that some mums and dads are being stopped from taking their children to hospital when they are sick.

“All workers should be given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance.  Everyone at work should get the same parents’ rights from day one – and everyone should be given written information about these rights.

“My advice to working dads and mums is this: join a union today. Your union will make sure you get your legal rights to time off to look after your kids.”

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