Most working parents likely live in fear of their child getting sick, not only because their child is sick (obvs) but also because of the implications it can have on working arrangements.
And a new survey has revealed that parents are right to be concerned as two out of five low-paid young parents who ask for flexible work arrangements, including time off when a child is poorly, are “penalised” as a result.
The TUC survey of 1,000 parents found that requesting family-friendly working patterns can lead to mums and dads getting fewer hours, worse shifts and, in some cases, losing their jobs altogether.
The TUC survey found that more than half of those working in low-paid sectors, such as retail, hospitality and social care, did not know their employment rights, with many unaware of unpaid parental leave arrangements.
All the young parents the TUC spoke to had at least one child aged between 1 and 16, were themselves aged between 20 and 35, had household earnings of less than £28,000, and none found it very easy to organise childcare with their working hours.
The survey also found that 42% of parents felt punished by their boss for asking for more flexibility and almost half (47%) said they are struggling to manage work and childcare.
Worryingly, almost a third of those parents questioned (29%) had dipped into holiday allowance and sick leave in order to look after their children over the last year.
Just over a quarter (26%) of parents said they’d had their shifts changed at short notice and almost a fifth (19%) were given their rota less than a week in advance, leaving them struggling to arrange childcare.
As a result of the findings, the TUC is calling for the introduction of measures to help families, including all workers being given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance.
It says everyone at work – including zero-hours contract workers, agency workers and those in casual work – should get the same parental rights as employed parents.
Parents should also be given information about their workplace rights, including the rights which will help them manage their childcare needs.
The TUC also believes parental leave and time off for dependants should be paid and recommends the government start by introducing a period of 5 days paid parental leave at least at the National Minimum Wage rate.
Commenting on the findings, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door.”
“It’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat, and you never work the same weekly hours twice.”
“Many parents fear losing shifts, taking unpaid leave or being viewed badly at work if they need time off to look after their kids,” she continued.
She said it was “shocking” that some mums and dads were stopped from taking their children to hospital when they were sick.
“All workers should be given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance. Everyone at work should get the same parents’ rights from day one – and everyone should be given written information about these rights.
“My advice to working dads and mums is this: join a union today. Your union will make sure you get your legal rights to time off to look after your kids.”
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