Category Archives: Parental leave

On the 5th Day of Christmas…

5th Day of ChristmasOn the 5th day of Christmas my employee said to me… “My childcare arrangements for the Christmas holiday period have just fallen through.”

An acceptable solution to help the employee, particularly if time needs to be taken off at short notice, may be readily identifiable.  If this is not possible, the employee may have to rely on the statutory dependent care leave regime to take time off.  The right would be triggered where the breakdown in child care arrangements was unforeseen and is an emergency.

Unless the contract of employment provides otherwise, the right to such leave is unpaid.

The employee is unlikely to be able to use dependent care leave to cover the entire school holiday period.  The right is to a reasonable amount of time off – normally a day or two is anticipated to allow the employee to sort out the emergency and make alternative arrangements.  Each case is likely to be different and needs to be considered on its own set of facts. In considering what is reasonable and necessary the following is relevant:

  • the nature of the emergency;
  • the relationship between the dependent and the employee;
  • the extent to which the employee can call upon someone else for help or make alternative arrangements; and
  • the length of time the employee had to explore alternative arrangements –  the longer the time the employee had to explore alternative arrangements, the less likely it would be necessary to have time off.

The operational needs of the business and any disruption caused are irrelevant considerations for an employer when determining if leave should be permitted.

To request this type of leave the employee is required to:

  • tell the employer as soon as possible the reason for the absence;
  • indicate how long they expect to be absent; and
  • provide sufficient information to establish the right to take dependent care leave.

To enable employees to understand the parameters of this statutory right, and to ensure that any request for this type of leave is dealt with fairly and consistently, employers are advised to have a clearly communicated policy. As a minimum this policy should address the following:

  • when an employee may take unpaid time off to care for their dependants, who may not always be children;
  • the process for requesting the leave;
  • details of the evidence required to support the request;
  • any sanctions for abusing the policy; and
  • details of the other rights available including  unpaid parental leave, annual leave or flexible working arrangements.

Contact Details

For more details about the issues in this article please contact:

+44 (0) 808 172 93 22

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

High Performance Culture vs Family-Friendly Workplace?

SUMMARY: Can Employers take advantage of the government’s drive to make workplaces more flexible and family-friendly?

The government’s campaign for a better work-life balance continues. Employers are going to be increasingly called upon to demonstrate that they care for their staff; at the top of the agenda is a good work-life balance underpinned by a raft of continually developing family-friendly rights.  Some of the main changes are summarised below:


  • Flexible working: All employees with 26 weeks’ service can now apply for flexible working. Employers should follow the ACAS Statutory Code of Practice, Handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly to ensure compliance.  Further guidance can be found in the ACAS guide, The right to request flexible working: an ACAS guide.
  • Ante-natal appointments: Eligible employees and agency workers can take unpaid time off work to accompany a pregnant woman to two antenatal appointments, up to a maximum of six and a half hours for each appointment.  In addition, individuals are protected from suffering a detriment or being dismissed in relation to time off to accompany a woman to ante-natal appointments.


  • Shared parental leave: Parents will be able to choose how they share their child care responsibilities following the birth or adoption of a child under the new shared parental leave legislation. The new scheme will make up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and 37 weeks of shared parental pay available for eligible parents to take or share.  ACAS have now published Shared parental leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees.
  • Parental leave:  The existing parental leave regime will be extended to parents of children aged five to 18 years of age. Currently, only parents of children aged five and under can take such leave.  This type of leave is unrelated to “shared parental leave”, which will not have any impact on the existing right to take unpaid parental leave.
  • The right to attend adoption appointments:  Eligible employees and agency workers who are proposing to adopt, either on their own or jointly with another person, will be able to take time off work to attend adoption appointments in certain circumstances. The time taken off may be paid or unpaid, depending on whether the employee or agency worker is adopting alone or has elected to be the main adopter where they are part of a couple who is adopting. An employee or agency worker exercising the right to take paid time off may do so on up to five occasions in relation to any particular adoption, up to a maximum of six and a half hours for each appointment.

Whilst employers can now have more confidence in managing some of the legal risks associated with dismissing an employee following the significant reduction in tribunal claims, has the drive for employers to become more family-friendly focused created an operational headache for businesses?

Smart employers are unlikely to think in this way, identifying instead these changes as an opportunity to tell staff about the support available to them. If the goal is to maximise productivity with a view to increasing the bottom line, employers need a highly motivated workforce as well low staff turnover. Staff who feel valued and understand the benefits on offer will be committed to realising financial and operational aims.

Key to achieving a positive outcome from changes in employment law and HR practice is the introduction and communication of relevant policies.  Reassured employees confident in their employer’s practices are likely to be committed for the long-term.

Promoting a more family-friendly culture to support a better work-life balance has the potential to play an important role in contributing to a high performance culture.

Contact Details
Further information about the new shared parental leave rights can be found in our October 2014 Edition of the FGazette.

For more details about family friendly rights please contact:
+44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.

The Children and Families Bill Update


SUMMARY:  The Children and Families Bill 2012-13 (the Bill) is currently being reviewed by Parliament. The first reading took place at the House of Commons on 4 February 2013; there was no debate on the Bill at that stage.

Continue reading

Queen’s Speech confirms plans for shared parental leave

The Queen’s Speech announced a number of Bills to be introduced which will have an impact on the workplace including the introduction of shared parental leave

The Queen’s Speech confirmed amongst other things the Government’s commitment to reform employment law, overhaul the employment tribunal system and encourage earlier resolution of employment claims.

The most challenging change from an employer’s perspective is however contained in the Children and Families Bill and arises from the plan to introduce a new period of shared parental leave following the birth of a child.  The aim is to allow parents to have greater flexibility in the way they plan when and which one of them will care for a child. The aim is to allow them to suit their own family’s needs.  Some commentators believe this will play an integral part in staff engagement; others see it as another complex regulated system which employers will have to get to grips with.  In reality will this planned change deliver the Government’s vision of parents sharing equally their child care responsibilities?  Current studies show that so far the take up of paternity leave and parental leave by men has been low.

Whilst the detail of the new parental leave system has yet to be announced it is hoped that the Government has listened to the critics and will ensure that what is introduced is a straightforward and easy system to administer.    We will let you know of any developments as they arise. 

Contact Information

Helen Taylor, Senior Associate Solicitor

+ 44 (0) 1604 871143

This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.