Single Parent? A guide to your rights in the workplace

Introduction

As a single parent, there are rules and procedures in place to help you manage your job alongside your caring responsibilities. Balancing working life with your home life as a single parent can be a challenge. It involves making decisions about how to manage your hours around your children’s needs, for example, taking time off and changing your work patterns.

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KEY POINTS

  • Taking time off
  • Emergencies
  • Bereavement
  • Changing or reducing your work hours
  • Your employer wants to change your work hours?

Taking time off

You have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone who depends on you. An emergency can include:

  • Your child or relative falling ill or being injured,
  • An issue with your childcare arrangements or,
  • If your child has been involved in an incident at school.

You cannot, and should not, be penalised by your employer for taking time off, as long as your reasons are genuine. Further, you will need to inform your employer as soon as it is reasonably practical for you to do so. It is worth noting, that your employer does not have to pay you while you are off work.

Emergencies

If there is a ‘family emergency’, you are only entitled to take as much time as is needed to deal with the emergency. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the emergency. You will need to inform your employer as soon as it is reasonably practical for you to do so. It is worth noting that your employer does not have to pay you while you are off work however, you may wish to consider taking annual leave.

Bereavement

If your spouse or partner dies, you have a legal right to take reasonable time off work to make funeral arrangements, as well as to attend the funeral. You also have the right to reasonable time off to deal with other practical issues such as registering the death and applying for probate.

You should not be penalised by your employer for taking this time off however, your employer does not have to pay you for the time you are off work. Any additional time is known as, ‘compassionate’ leave and you may be paid, although there is no legal right to this, and if your employer doesn’t offer it to you, you can ask for paid annual leave or consider taking sick leave if you are not fit to return to work.

If you have a child, and your spouse or partner dies, you should talk to your employer to see if they offer extra time off as part of your employment contract.

Finally, if you have become a single dad due to bereavement and your child is under one, you may be entitled to shared parental leave.

Changing or reducing your work hours

If you have become a single parent, and your current working hours no longer fit your parental needs, you can change or reduce your working hours so that they fit better with your other commitments. This is known as flexible working.

UK law allows employees to ask their employer to change their working hours or pattern, or to work from home. This request must be considered by the employer. Flexible working may include:

  1. Working flexible hours
  2. Working from home
  3. Compressing your work hours so that you work the same hours in total, but over less days
  4. Reducing your hours
  5. Changing the time, you start and finish work  
  6. Term-time working and
  7. Job sharing.

To be entitled to flexible working, you must:

  1. Be an employee
  2. Not be an employee shareholder, unless you have returned from parental leave within 14 days
  3. Not be an agency worker, unless returning from parental leave
  4. Not be a member of the armed forces
  5. Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks in a row, and
  6. Have not made an application for flexible working under this rule in the past 12 months.

If you meet the above criteria, you have a legal right to apply to change your working hours. Your employer does not have to agree to your request, but they are required to seriously consider, and only reject your application if there are good business reasons for doing so.

If you do not have the legal right to apply for flexible working, you can still ask your employer if they will agree to change your hours.

Finally, it is worth noting that, changes to your working hours can affect which benefits and tax credits you are eligible to receive, and the amount of money you receive.

Your employer wants to change your work hours?

Your employer may try to change your hours of work to suit the needs of their business. If you are unhappy with any suggested changes, or if it would make managing your childcare responsibilities more difficult, please discuss with us for advice.

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