3 Employment Rights Parents Might Not Know They Have

Juggling kids and your career isn’t easy, and if you have an employer who’s flexible and willing to accommodate parents, then that’s great. Unfortunately, too many employers expect you to always put work first, and simply aren’t understanding when you need time off or need a little flexibility.

That’s why it’s so important for parents to know their rights and what they’re entitled to under UK employment laws, so here are some you may not even know about.

1. Parental leave
Parental leave has changed over the past few years. It used to be that the mother would take maternity leave, while fathers only had a couple of weeks off. Nowadays, there are options such as shared parental leave, but only around 1% of couples used shared parental leave. However, it’s worth looking into if you can afford to extend your time off, as it gives you extra time to adjust to your new arrival.

Unpaid parental leave is also available to eligible employees who need to take time off to look after their child’s welfare. For example, when their child is moving to a new childcare arrangement, or when you need to visit grandparents. You’re entitled to up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for each child, with a maximum of 4 weeks per child.

2. Flexible working
All employees have the right to put in a request for flexible working, but it’s usually people with children or other caring responsibilities who are more likely to do so. Flexible working could mean asking for different start or finish times, asking for compressed hours or working from home. By law, employers have to deal with your requests in a reasonable manner, holding a meeting to go through the advantages and disadvantages of the request.

If your request is rejected, employers must tell you why. They must have a legitimate reason, for example, that you can’t carry out your work from home, the hours you’re proposing aren’t suitable, or it’ll put undue pressure on other staff. They may want to seek employment law advice for employers to ensure that their reason is within the law. If your request is rejected and you don’t think it has been considered reasonably, you can go to appeal and even consider a tribunal.

3. Compassionate leave
There are many reasons for why you may need to take time off for dependents, also known as compassionate leave, if you’re a parent. These can include:
• Your child becoming ill or suffering an injury
• Problems with childcare arrangements or incidents at school
• A death in the family
• Your dependent having a baby

Compassionate leave is usually unpaid, although some employers will continue to pay your salary for short periods. You’re allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off to deal with the emergency, so in most cases, these things can be sorted in a couple of days, but if you need the extra time, don’t be afraid to ask. You should keep in touch with your employer so they know what’s going on and can plan accordingly.

There are a number of situations where you won’t qualify for time off. For example, personal problems, dealing with a fire or flood in your home, or taking your children to medical appointments. In these situations, it’s best to talk to your employer and try to come up with a solution, such as using some of your annual leave or a personal day.

Many parents don’t know their employment rights at work and may find themselves in difficult situations when juggling their work and home life. A little bit of research ensures that you know what reasonable rights you have, so that you can get time off to deal with family matters as and when they arise. 


  1. O was fortunate to have a great boss - never an issue with any of this

  2. Another really useful post. Thank you. We're luckier in the UK than in many countries so it's good to know exactly what can be requested from your employer.

  3. Thanks for the info!

  4. Interesting, always good to be informed