A large proportion of the population are working parents, carefully balancing work commitments with childcare responsibilities. A lot of the time this is a very delicate balance, but do you know that you have legal rights as a working parent?
Employment law provisions ensure that working parents have a variety of rights in the workplace. We all hope that we have a supportive employer who recognises these rights – but this is not always the case and disputes can often arise.
“One in every 20 (pregnant and working) women are made redundant during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return.” (Maternity Action report on ‘Unfair Redundancies during Pregnancy, Maternity Leave and Return to Work’)
In this article, we summarise the various ‘family friendly’ or ‘working parent’ rights available to employees in the workplace.
• If you are pregnant, you are entitled to time off to attend ante-natal appointments
• Partners (the father or civil partner) are entitled to unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments
Maternity / Paternity / Adoption / Shared Parental Leave:
• As long as you have given your employer notice, you are entitled to take maternity leave. You must take 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave immediately following birth.
• You can take up to 52 weeks Maternity leave starting from or after the 15th week before the estimated date of childbirth.
• An employee who is adopting a child can take up to 52 weeks of adoption leave.
• The father/civil partner is entitled to take paternity leave of 1 or 2 weeks in the 4 weeks following birth/placement of an adopted child
• Either parent, who meet certain qualifying conditions regarding length of service and employment status are entitled to take Shared Parental Leave of up to 50 weeks
• Subject to meeting qualifying conditions, there is a statutory payment for maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave. Any additional pay that may be provided by your employer will be detailed in your contract of employment.
Protection from discrimination:
• You are entitled to not be discriminated against or subjected to detrimental treatment (i.e. treated unfavourably) because you are pregnant or on maternity / adoption / paternity / shared parental leave.
• Throughout pregnancy and maternity/paternity/adoption leave, you remain employed on the same terms and conditions of employment and have the right to return to work on the same terms and conditions, or terms that are not to your detriment.
• You are also entitled to not be dismissed because you are pregnant or on maternity / adoption / paternity / shared parental leave.
Returning to work:
• During maternity or adoption leave you are entitled to make use of up to 10 ‘Keeping in Touch’ days or 20 days for shared parental leave, to allow you to attend work as normal and be paid as normal for these days. The timing of these days is something you must agree with your employer, but there is no obligation on you to take these days.
• If your employer commences a redundancy procedure impacting on your role during your period of leave, you are entitled to be consulted with about the procedure. If there is a suitable alternative role you are entitled to be placed in this role with priority over other employees affected by the redundancy procedure.
• Employees are entitled to make a flexible working request (provided no such request has been in the previous 6 months) i.e. to reduce their hours or rearrange their working pattern. There is a statutory procedure to follow for this.
• A parent is entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave before their child’s 18th birthday (including adopted children) as parental leave.
• All employees are entitled to take unpaid time off for dependants in an emergency situation.
Please note the rights of self-employed people are different.
If your employer has treated you unfairly, then a grievance is often the most practical way to try and resolve issues. We recommend you seek some advice from us and we can also help with preparing a grievance letter for you.
If you are unsure of your rights, please feel free to contact our expert employment specialists who will be happy to help and provide an initial consultation to you on your rights and circumstances. You can contact us by telephone, email or make use of our online employment clinic on Mondays or our free drop in service on Wednesdays. For more information see Employment.