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Options for parents and carers

So now you’re juggling home-schooling and working remotely. Good luck and enjoy the experience!

As a working parent, there are a number of ways to shake things up so that you can maintain some kind of your work-life balance, as well as your patience and sanity.

There are a number of options available to you and I’ll try to explain how they can work. Some are informal and some are statutory (meaning you have a legal right to request them). The statutory ones, which you are entitled to ask for, have rules – not set by your employer but by law.

We’re all different: some things might not work for you, or for us, but have a chat with your and try to pin down what might be possible.


Talk to your employer and see if this is an option. If it is, you can be furloughed for some or all of your working hours, as long as the furlough scheme continues (currently until the end of April). But remember: you can request it, but you can’t demand it – your employer can refuse. See this article for more information about furloughs.

Take holiday

  • You can use up some holiday.
  • Doesn’t have to be in chunks of a week or even a day.
  • Try a couple of ½ days a week for a few weeks.
  • Or break up the week with a day off.

Change your working pattern

  • Changing your working pattern means you do the same hours as you do now (eg 37.5 a week) but it doesn’t have to be the usual core hours. If you want to work at unusual times of the day, then talk about it.
  • You might want to take more breaks in the day and work in the evening, once the kids are in bed.
  • We’d rather you didn’t work evenings and weekends – you still need time away from work. But speak to your manager about this if you need to and you think it’s the best option for you.
  • Have a chat with your line manager about a flexible working pattern that works for them and you. Your job role may restrict what you can do, but you might be able to agree to do it for a trial period and see if it works.
  • It’s always a good idea to fix a working pattern rather than wing it ad hoc, just to keep some structure for you and allow your colleagues to plan effectively. If they don’t know when you’re working, it trips them up.

Change your working hours

  • You can reduce your hours (maybe on a temporary basis) to allow you to spend less time at work and more time with your family.
  • This would be a change to your contract (albeit temporary) and your pay and holiday entitlement would also reduce pro-rata.
  • You could try 3 full days a week or just shorter days.
  • If you do decide to do this, have a think about the sort of hours you want to work and discuss with your manager.
  • Technically it’s a flexible working request: you have the legal right to ask for the change, but no automatic right to get it.

Emergency dependants’ leave

  • It is what it says on the tin……emergency leave, designed to give you time off until the emergency is sorted! More often than not, it’s used for childcare issues.
  • It’s short term, a ‘reasonable’ (legal speak) amount of time not usually more than 5 days.
  • It’s unpaid.

Parental leave

  • You must have parental responsibility for a child under 18.
  • You need to have worked for your employer for more than 1 year.
  • Sorry but it’s unpaid – so it will also affect your pension.
  • You must take it as whole weeks (ie 1 or 2 weeks) rather than individual days.
  • The legislation says you can have 4 weeks’ leave per year, per child.
  • Your company could agree to a longer period, if that’s what you need, but that’s their choice.
  • Your job, is protected and your holiday still accrues while you’re away from work.
  • You are supposed to give 21 days’ notice – but obviously we’re in unusual circumstances, so don’t let that put you off asking.
  • You are allowed 18 weeks altogether, per child up to their 18th You probably didn’t realise!

Unpaid leave

  • If you are a carer that doesn’t qualify for parental leave, then this one’s for you.
  • There’s no maximum or minimum limits on time to take off, but do speak to your manager about your intentions.
  • Remember that your pension contributions will also be affected.


If you’ve never heard anyone talk about this in your workplace, you might be the first person to discuss it. A sabbatical is an unpaid (or part-paid if your employer offers this) break from work for a while – usually for months. It’s totally up to you and your employer to consider it and negotiate the details, but it might be a way to take a break and return to your job.


Hopefully your employer is committed to trying to support you through this difficult period, but your managers also need to consider other team members – who might also have these issues in their lives – and the effect changes to your hours may have on them, as well as the overall interests of the business.  Hopefully working together you can come up with some solutions.



By Melissa

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