Workplace rights for parents – what does the law say?

Family life
Workplace rights for parents

Paid collaboration with CJCH Solicitors

Cardiff Mummy Says is delighted to be working with CJCH Solicitors on an ongoing series of articles exploring legal matters relating to families. The series has already covered how to appeal a school admissions decision if your child didn’t get into your first-choice school; why it’s so important for parents to make a will; as well as where families of school-age children stand if they go on a term-time holiday.

This month Sally Perrett and Jodi Winter from CJCH’s Barry practice offer their expertise on workplace rights for parents.

Please note that while all articles will be written in good faith by legal experts using the latest laws in Wales and England each legal case is different and these articles are not a substitute for individual legal advice.

CJCH cannot comment in these articles on individual cases. However they are delighted to offer Cardiff Mummy Says readers a free initial ‘case validation’ assessment of their matter (T&C apply, assessment may take place in person, via telephone or email). If you’re unsure if your matter can be pursued then get in touch via email or telephone to provide the facts of your case, and the team will assess the matter free of charge and confirm if they are able to act for you. CJCH are also offering Cardiff Mummy Says readers a 10% discount on their legal services (excludes external costs such as court costs and third party services and fees and does not apply to wills). Just quote Cardiff Mummy when getting in touch.

CJCH is a Wales top-20 law firm with headquarters in Cardiff, has grown to more than 100 members of staff. Its expertise covers the full range of legal services including commercial, corporate, dispute resolution, intellectual property, mental health, employment law, motoring, property, family, child care, crime, wills and probate.

For more information call CJCH on 0333 231 6405; email or visit the website 

Parental rights in the workplace


Emergency leave to care for your child

What happens when you need to leave work in an emergency of take time off to look after your child or a dependant?

If you’ve worked for your employer for one year you have the right to unpaid time off from work to look after your children whether this is due to an emergency or because your child is ill.

You have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an emergency involving your child. An emergency can include your child or dependant falling ill or being injured, a problem with your childcare arrangements or your child being involved in an incident in school.

You should not be penalised by your employer for taking time off, as long as your reasons are genuine. You will need to tell your employer as soon as is reasonably practical for you to do so. Your employer does not have to pay you while you are off work, however some employers choose to pay their staff for some or all of this time off. This is often known as dependant leave. Check your employment contract or speak to your employer or human resources department to find out whether your employer provides paid dependant leave.

You can only take as much time as is needed to deal with the emergency. This will depend on the circumstances of the emergency, however one or two days would be typical. If you need to take more time off, you should discuss this with your employer. You may wish to consider taking annual leave if your employer does not offer enough paid dependant leave to cover the time you need to take off.


The right to request flexible working

You may have decided that your current working arrangements aren’t conducive to your responsibilities at home and be seeking a little flexibility in your working arrangements.

There are many forms of flexible working. It can describe a place of work, or a type of contract, such as a temporary contract. Other common variations include: part time working, flexitime, job sharing and shift work.

Although employees with less than 26 weeks of service do not have a statutory right to request flexible working, some employers may allow all staff to make a request. Any request to be able to work more flexibly must be made in writing, stating the date the request is made, the change to the working conditions sought, and the date from which you would like the change to take effect, also how you think this may affect the business, for example, would your request for flexible working result in a cost saving?  You would also need to state whether you have made a previous application for flexible work and the date of that application.

Once the request has been received, your employer should arrange a meeting to discuss your request as soon as possible. The meeting can provide an opportunity to discuss what changes you are seeking and the reasons for the change. Although you might not want to discuss this in detail with your employer it gives the opportunity to explore a compromise with them.

The law requires the process to be completed within three months of the request being received. This includes any appeal.

Any request that is accepted will make a permanent change to your employment contract, so if you are only seeking a temporary change then an agreement may be reached together with any compromise if your employer cannot accommodate your original request.

Employers should consider all requests in a reasonable manner and can only refuse the request if there are legitimate business reasons for doing so. This reason may be the burden of additional costs, an inability to recruit additional staff or reorganise work among existing staff, or a detrimental impact on quality, performance or the ability to meet customer demand.

While it would always be beneficial to be able to reach an agreement on flexible working within the workplace, if your application was to be refused at the appeal stage you could use your employer’s internal grievance procedure, seek assistance from a third party such as a trade union representative or through the conciliation process with ACAS.


Working from home

There may be occasions where it would be beneficial to be able to work from home. The number of people working from home is steadily increasing. Factors contributing to the rise in the number of employees working from home include technology making it easier for some roles to be performed anywhere, rising costs of commuting and increasing numbers of employees with childcare responsibilities.

While many employees who work from home either much or some of the time say they have a better work-life balance and improved job satisfaction, these outcomes can also play a part in employers reporting increased productivity from homeworkers.

A request to be able to work from home should be accepted, managed or refused, through a comprehensive working agreement so both you and your employer are clear about what is acceptable and expected. Such a policy should cover the criteria for assessing whether a homeworking arrangement will be practical, effective and meet business needs.


Maternity leave and pay

One of the most important considerations when expecting a baby is how much time off you can take to spend with your little one and how you will manage financially.

You have the right to take up to a year of maternity leave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for your employer, how much you’re paid or how many hours a week you work.

Maternity leave is separate from maternity pay, which has different rules about who is entitled to it.

There are three different types of maternity pay:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay – The standard type of maternity pay. If you’re entitled to this, it’s the legal minimum your employer can pay you.
  • Contractual Maternity Pay – Some employers offer this instead of statutory maternity pay. Your contract or company maternity policy should tell you if yours does. What you are entitled to depends on your employer. However you should never be worse off than if you just got statutory maternity pay.
  • Maternity Allowance – You might get this from the government if you can’t get statutory maternity pay from your employer.

Adoptive parents may also take up to 52 weeks adoption leave, and may be entitled to 39 weeks of statutory adoption pay. Adoption leave may be taken when a child starts living with the adopter or up to 14 days before the placement.


Paternity leave

The baby’s father or mother’s partner is also entitled to one or two weeks of paternity leave. Paternity leave can also be taken if you and your partner adopt. Paternity leave should be taken in a block of one or two weeks. The baby’s father (or mother) will need to give notice of the request for paternity leave 15 weeks before the baby’s due date.

You can also share your maternity leave with your partner – it’s called shared parental leave. You could share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay. There are certain rules around how long you need to have worked for your employer to qualify for shared parental leave, so always check your respective employer’s policy before making any decisions with regards to how you manage your maternity leave.


Baby loss during pregnancy

It is currently baby loss awareness week (held annually from 9-15 October). Some couples may not be aware of their rights to maternity pay, sick leave, and compassionate leave in the tragic event that a baby should be lost during pregnancy.

In law, if your baby is born dead before 24th week of pregnancy, it is called a miscarriage. If you have a miscarriage, you will not be entitled to maternity, paternity or shared parental leave or pay.

You can take sick leave for as long as your GP signs you off. Sick leave for a miscarriage may be protected in the same way as sick leave for a pregnancy related illness, therefore you are not limited in how much you can take, and it must be recorded as such and does not count towards your sickness record.

In the sad event that your baby is born dead after the beginning of the 24th week of pregnancy it is called a stillbirth.

If you have a stillbirth, or if your baby is born alive but later dies, even after a few seconds (and even if this takes place before the 24th week of pregnancy) you are entitled to all your maternity rights. You will be given a certificate of stillbirth; this is the evidence you need to claim statutory maternity pay or allowance.

If you have a partner who is eligible for paternity leave, he or she will also still be entitled to take this after a stillbirth.

Leave a Reply