Last week, Talem Law received a few calls concerning employment law queries from working parents of disabled children. This got us thinking about the issue more generally and what legislation is in place which working parents may possibly (depending on the circumstances) avail themselves of to manage their professional obligations alongside their personal caring responsibilities. These are of interest to working parents generally but may be particularly useful for working parents of disabled children who have caring responsibilities too (this summary does not deal with employment rights of carers). Possible options could include: –
- Flexible Working – Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment can make a request for flexible working under the statutory scheme for any reason. The current scheme is far less prescriptive than the previous regime. The employee triggers the procedure by making a written request. The employer then has the three-month decision period (which can be extended by agreement) within which to consider the request, discuss it with the employee (if appropriate) and notify the employee of the outcome. As noted in the Consultation on Modern Workplaces, while the right to request flexible working is generally viewed as a right to request a permanent change to terms and conditions, there is no prohibition on an employee requesting a temporary change although, in making such a request, they will need to state the duration of the desired change
- Equality Act 2010 – Working parents may find that employers may be more willing to be flexible in managing their requests for flexible working as they may be mindful of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and will want to avoid allegations of discrimination such as sex discrimination.
- Time off for dependants – Employees have the right to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to take “necessary” action to deal with particular situations (which are listed in the legislation) affecting their dependants. This legislation provides that an employee is entitled to take reasonable time off where it is necessary in situations such as to provide assistance if a dependant falls ill or is injured, to deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee’s child during school hours or unexpected disruption or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant (further situations are spelt out in the legislation).
- Parental Leave – Parental leave is a form of statutory unpaid leave available to some working parents (not to be confused with shared parental leave). The leave should only be used for the purposes of caring for a child. Employers are encouraged by the legislation to devise their own schemes (subject to some restrictions) for implementing parental leave. If no agreement is reached on a non-statutory scheme, the default scheme set out in the relevant regulations will apply. On 8 March 2013, the total amount of unpaid leave that can be taken per child increased from 13 to 18 weeks. On 5 April 2015, the age limits for children in respect of whom parental leave can be taken changed so that leave can now be taken up until a child’s 18th birthday. Parental leave can be flexible in terms of the time at which it is taken and the way in which the total leave entitlement may be split up into a few shorter periods (unlike arrangements for maternity, paternity or adoption leave). Under the default scheme, employees are not entitled to take parental leave for less than one week or in anything other than multiples of a week. An application for leave of less than one week would not be a valid application for parental leave. This does not apply where the child is entitled to a disability living allowance, armed forces independence payment or personal independence payment.
The above is not intended to constitute legal advice and neither is it a detailed analysis on the intricacies of the legislation but simply provides a general overview. Other factors will be just as important including Company policies on flexible working, dependant leave etc.
If you would like advice about your particular situation as a working parent (whether you have a disabled child or not) or if you are a business owner seeking advice on how to operate within the legal framework, please contact Mandy Aulak (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sean Kennedy (email@example.com) at Talem Law.