School’s out for summer!

By Rebecca Reid


Now that summer (at least, in theory!) has arrived and school holidays have started, the challenge of juggling work and childcare over the next six weeks becomes even more pronounced.  So what rights do you have, as a working parent, to help?


All employees, whether full time or part time have the right to annual leave. 


If you work a 5 day week, you are legally entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of annual leave a year whilst part-time workers receive a pro-rata entitlement;  but check your contract, as you may find that you are entitled to more than the legal minimum. 


Bear in mind that you may be required to give your employer a certain amount of notice before taking leave (usually twice as long as the length of holiday you want to take i.e. two weeks’ notice for a one week holiday).  There may also be a limit as to how much holiday your employer will let you take in one go.  Check your holiday policy or contract for further details.  An employer can refuse a request for annual leave (provided it is for good reason and not a discriminatory one)  and most employers will ask you to use your annual leave first, before using the other options I mention below to help with time off for children over the summer period. 


Requesting flexible working hours over the summer holidays is another potential option.  However, approval of a flexible working request will normally change your terms and conditions of employment on a permanent basis, not just for the summer holidays, so it would need to be made explicit and agreed with your employer that this change would be for a fixed period.  The flexible working process is a legal process, and an employer can only turn down a request for one of eight reasons.  Further information on the process and the forms you need to complete should be contained in your employer’s flexible working policy.


Unpaid parental leave is available for all parents, allowing you to take unpaid time off over the summer to spend time with your children.  You can take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave for each child up until the child’s 18th birthday, although this is usually limited to a maximum of 4 weeks per year (unless your child has a disability).  You must take unpaid parental leave as full weeks rather than just single days and are usually required to give at least 21 days notice.  Some employers give extended rights to parental leave, such as providing for it to be paid or allowing uncapped leave to be taken per year – again, check out your employer’s policy.


Finally, parents have the right to time off to deal with emergencies relating to a dependant.  So for example, if your childminder calls in sick one morning, you have the right to take dependant leave in order to make other suitable childcare arrangements.  Leave is normally unpaid, hence the employer may recommend you use annual leave first (as this is paid time off).  Dependent leave can only normally be used for a short period of time, normally up to 2 days in order for you to be able to sort out alternate arrangements. 


If you have questions about your rights to time off, or need any other advice about your employment rights as a parent or expecting parent, the Smith Partnership employment team are happy to assist. 


I will be available during this week’s forum on the topic where you can drop me a line or contact me by email on




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