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As a working parent, you may have a legal right to take time off in
certain circumstances. You may also be able to request a change in
your working week to help you juggle your work and caring
For the purposes of the information below a disabled child is
one for whom a parent is receiving Disability
Living Allowance or Personal Independence
If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks you
normally have the right to apply to your employer for flexible
working arrangements, for example a change to the times or hours
you work or the option to work from home.
Employers must consider such requests seriously and are only
able to refuse the request when there is a clear business
Who is entitled to flexible working?
To be eligible to make a request for flexible working under the
current provisions you must:
As long as you meet these tests you can ask for flexible working
regardless of whether you have caring responsibilities or not.
Parental leave gives parents the right to take time off work to
look after their children. Parental leave is normally unpaid but
some employers have more generous provisions. Check your contract
Who qualifies for parental leave?
To qualify for leave parents must have worked for an employer
continuously for one year and must give at least 21 days' notice.
They must also use the leave time to care for their child.
Parents who qualify must be allowed at least 18 weeks unpaid
leave for each child aged under 18, regardless of whether they are
disabled or not.
Both parents have the right to parental leave so each can take
up to 18 weeks leave per child, to be used before the child's 18th
How can I take parental leave?
Normally you have to take parental leave in blocks of one week
or more. However parents of disabled children can take leave a day
at a time. This means you could use parental leave for regular
The maximum amount of leave a parent can take for any one child
in one year is normally four weeks, but your employer can let you
take a longer period of parental leave each year if they wish.
You must give at least 21 days notice. Your employer may ask you
to postpone your leave if it would cause disruption to their
business. Seek further advice if this happens to you.
Returning to work
If you take four weeks or less parental leave you are guaranteed
returning to your same job. If you take more than four weeks and it
is not reasonably possible for you to be allowed to return to your
old job, you are entitled to a similar job with the same or better
status as the previous one.
You can take time off work to deal with an
emergency relating to a dependent. This could be a parent, partner,
child, or someone for whom an individual has sole care. Your
employer cannot penalise you for taking dependants leave as long as
your reasons for taking this leave are genuine. Any leave you take
will be unpaid unless your contract of employment says
When can you take time off for a dependent?
You are allowed time off only to deal with
emergencies or other unexpected events. For example if your
You cannot take dependants leave to deal with
a situation that was foreseen or planned. In these situations, you
would need to take parental leave (see above), annual leave or
other any other available leave.
How much time off can I take?
Time off for dependents only covers the time taken to make
alternative arrangements. For anything longer term you will need to
use parental, annual or other leave. You must notify your employer
of the reasons for your absence as soon as possible and tell them
how long you expect to be absent.
The amount of time you take must be reasonable in all the
circumstances. Normally this will only be a day or two but this may
vary depending on the individual circumstances. Seek specialist
employment law advice if you think that you will need more than a
day or two's leave.
As an employee you may also be entitled to time off if you or your
partner has either had a baby or adopted a child in the last