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How to manage working parents within your business

Burnetts' Employment Law solicitor Natalie Ruane provides her top five tips on how to manage working parents within the workplace.

1. Maternity Issues

Offering a fixed term contract linked to the maternity absence is often the best way to provide cover during maternity leave. However, employers need to remember that the original employee has the right to return to her role or to something similar. Refusing to do that, even if the replacement is better, could lead to claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

2. Paternity Leave

Since 2003, employees have been able to take one or two weeks’ paternity leave when a child is born. However, from April 2015, a new system of parental leave will be introduced which will allow parents to share the statutory maternity leave and pay that is currently available only to mothers.  This may mean that in future, employers will have to deal with fathers/partners taking extended leave as well as or instead of the mother.

3. Flexible Working

Employers should remember that, although any employee with 26 week’s service, can make a request, no employee has a legal right to be given flexible working. However, a request can only be refused for one of the 8 statutory grounds for refusal. Employers who want to reject a request should therefore take legal advice to ensure that their decision is within the law.

4. Emergency Leave

Employees have the right to take a "reasonable" amount of unpaid time off work to deal with particular situations affecting their dependants including sudden illness and the unexpected disruption of care arrangements. The fact that the leave is unpaid often prevents unreasonable requests being made but what is “reasonable time off” depends upon the facts of each case.


The basic right to annual leave is 5.6 weeks or 28 days for those who work five days a week.  The entitlement should be calculated pro rata for part time staff according to the number of days they work each week.  Unfortunately, most employees with families want to take their leave during the school holiday periods.  However, as long as details of any restrictions are given in an employee’s contract of employment, employers do have the right to control how and when holiday is taken.

Any employers who need help with any of these issues should contact Natalie Ruane at Burnetts Solicitors on 01228 552222 or by email nr@burnetts.co.uk

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Wednesday 19th November 2014
Categorised: Employment

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