Juggling between work and childcare is tricky for employees at the best of times, reports ACAS, but the problem is compounded in peak periods like the summer when everyone wants to take leave and the school holidays intensify the problem. Clarity between employers and employees over rights and responsibilities can help everyone keep life on the level throughout the year.
Taking a substantial chunk of leave during the period is not always possible. Employers have the right to refuse a leave request if too many people are away at the same time or if it would affect the needs of the business. But employers do need to stay within the terms of their leave policies and be fair and consistent to all employees.
Flexible working is an option for parents of children aged 16 or under, or children with disabilities under 18, as long as they have worked continuously for at least 26 weeks when the application is made. They also should not have applied for flexible working in the last 12 months. Requests are made formally in writing and the employer can only refuse if there are clear business grounds for doing so.
Any agreements about flexible working will make a permanent change to the contract of employment. However, if it’s only needed for the holidays, further informal arrangements for a temporary change to work patterns can be negotiated.
Employees who are parents or carers may also be entitled to parental leave if they have completed a year’s work with their employer. They are allowed 13 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child born or adopted. It must be taken before the child’s fifth birthday or until five years since an adoption placement. If the child has disabilities, employees can take 18 weeks until the child’s 18th birthday.
In emergencies, including when childcare arrangements have broken down, employees have the legal right to get ‘time off for dependants’. Usually this would be one or two days of unpaid leave, but other arrangements can be made depending on what is considered ‘reasonable’ for the circumstances. ACAS has detailed information on Summer holiday guidance, Flexible work, Parental Leave and Time off for dependants, as well as a wide range of advice leaflets.