Common summer employment issues – are you ready for them?
With schools breaking up for the long summer holidays and high temperatures likely to continue during the coming weeks, we explore some employment law scenarios you may have to deal with.
Supporting working parents
Is there anything you can do to offer more support and flexibility to your employees who have the long school summer holiday stretching before them?
- There are a number of statutory rights that employees have, which can assist them with their childcare commitments. The most well-known of these is the right to request flexible working, which is a right to request only and not a right to work flexibly. A request can be made by an eligible employee and needs to be in a prescribed form, considered within certain deadlines and can only be refused on certain grounds. This is likely to be a preferred option when a long-term solution to childcare issues is required, as only one request can be made every 12 months.
- Another option for parents with more than a year’s service is parental leave. Parents of a child under the age of 18 have the legal right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave until the child’s 18th Such leave must be taken in blocks of one week and therefore may be a preferred option for parents who need to arrange childcare during the school holidays and who have used up their holiday entitlement. Parental leave must be granted unless there are sound business reasons why it cannot be taken at the time requested.
- A parent who faces a sudden and short-term issue with childcare can take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to care for their child (known as time off for dependants), irrespective of their length of service. This leave is meant to cover unplanned “emergencies” and so could not be used for a pre-booked hospital appointment, for example, but could be used where childcare arrangements break down. As the use of this type of leave is relatively limited, it would not assist generally with school holidays but could be useful where, for example, a child cannot attend a holiday club because they are ill.
Informal working arrangements
- As well as the statutory rights listed above there is no reason why you cannot agree to informal flexible working requests, for example, allowing an employee to work around the hours of a school holiday club and either ask them to make up the hours or reduce their pay accordingly. A potential issue with adopting an informal approach is that it may be difficult to ensure consistency and there are no limits on the number of requests that can be made.
You should ensure that you are familiar with the rights of parents so you are well placed to deal with requests for time off and flexible working. In addition, you should ensure consistency in your approach, and keeping a record of employees’ requests and their response will be helpful in this. As the law is constantly changing, employers should check their family-friendly policies regularly to make sure they are up to date and, at the same time, make sure all employees are aware of policy contents.
To read more about how to support summer workers click here
If you would like any advice on family-friendly working practices, absence issues and work experience placements, please get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01932 874 944.