Flexibility at Work
A question many mothers may ask when going back to work is whether it is possible to find a job which is compatible with their childrens’ schooling and how does the law protect them in matters concerning flexibility to balance their work and home life. It may appear a rather daunting task to find an employer who will be accommodating when it comes to matters regarding the children, limiting many to fewer career options. For some, they may not feel comfortable discussing the issue as it may put their employment and integrity at risk.
As parents, it is impossible to predict and adequately plan for emergencies or shakeups in the regular routine when it comes to the children. However, it helps to have a clear understanding of the employer’s rules and policies. Some degree of flexibility must be maintained, especially when it comes to matters of children who are sick, or also if parents need some time off to attend school functions during the day.
So, what happens if an employer refuses an employee time off to stay home with their sick child? Do they have the right to terminate an employee? Or can this be classified as a form of discrimination?
In addition to the standard criteria for discrimination such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation etc. which are known as “protected characteristics,” there are some additional features under the Equality Act which aim to further protect employees’ rights. When employers make rules or arrangements that apply to everyone, yet may put some employees with a protected characteristic at a worse off disadvantage, they can be guilty of indirect discrimination. You can be indirectly discriminated against if policies affect you unfairly due to your age, disability, marriage or civil partnership, gender reassignment, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, and/or sexual orientation. It is important for parents to know their rights in the workplace. It is important to note that this issue is not gender specific and fathers can also face this discrimination.
Since April 2009, any employee with a child under the age of 16 is entitled to request flexible working. Employers need to be able to show that they have considered it, however, they are under no legal obligation to accept the request. An employee must be in full time employment and have been with the company for at least 26 weeks prior to the application.
Flexible working can be of benefit to both parties. The options include job sharing, compressing hours where employees can fit a full day of work into less hours, term time working only, work from home days, and also flexi time where employees choose days and times that are convenient for them. There are many flexible working options available in this day and age, so whatever your situation, know that you have the right to employment which is fair for you and your children.