As a working parent, juggling childcare, back to school, and work can be difficult, and you might be concerned about managing these commitments.

What happens if your child is ill and you have to take a day off, or childcare falls through and you need to pick up your child from school? In this article we look at your rights as a working parent and what you are entitled to receive without compromising your career, normally referred to as dependants leave.

Time off to look after your child
If you are an employee, you are allowed to take time off for emergencies, for example, if your child is unwell, they cannot attend childcare (for example, if they have something contagious like chickenpox) and you have no childcare.

How much time off can you get?
There is no prescribed amount of how much time off you can take to deal with an emergency situation; you are allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time, this is usually considered to be up to two days.

However, if you need an extended amount of time off, more than a few hours or days, your employer may request you take the time as part of your holiday allowance or parental leave.

Will I get paid for being off?
Your employer is not obligated to pay you for this time off. It will be a consideration of your contractual entitlement rather than the obligation to pay you due to the statutory right. Therefore, you should check your contract of employment to see if you are entitled to be paid.

Parental leave
Until your child turns 18, you have a right to take parental leave. This time off is generally unpaid unless you have a contractual entitlement to be paid.

In what situations can I take parental leave?
Parents of children under 18 can take unpaid parental leave if you have been with your employer at least a year. You can take parental leave to look after your child and their welfare. Such as looking after them if they are off sick from school, spending more time with them, caring for them during school holidays or settling them into new childcare arrangements.

How much parental leave am I entitled to?
Each parent can take up to 18 weeks of leave for each child that can be taken up until their 18th birthday. You can take up to four weeks per year, and the time has to be taken in blocks of at least a week at a time, rather than individual days. Parents taking parental leave for a disabled child (who is entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) can take it in blocks of a day.

One thing to note is that your parental leave applies to your child, not your job. For example, if you get a new job, you do not revert back to your full parental leave entitlement, anything you have taken in your old job will remain deducted from your total 18 weeks per child.

Flexible working
All employees have a right to request flexible working. However, it may be particularly useful for working parents.

What is flexible working?
Flexible working is working in a way that suits you as an employee, this might be reducing your hours to spend more time with your children, working from home or making your start and finish times more flexible to work around childcare.

Your employer must consider all flexible working requests, and they must deal with them in a ‘reasonable manner’. If they refuse the request, they must write to you and provide business reasons for declining your request. If your employer unreasonably declines your request you can take this further to an employment tribunal, and you may wish to seek legal advice from an employment law expert before taking this step.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, either as an employer or as an employee, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077.