As we look towards the start of another school year, how do you, as an employer, support working parents? Pupils and teachers may have eagerly anticipated the long summer holidays as some downtime, late nights, and lie-ins; however, the same can’t always be said for working parents. The school holidays might have seemed like the perfect opportunity for parents to spend time with their children. Yet, many parents are still working professionals who have to attend important meetings, meet work deadlines, and pursue their career ambitions. This can cause unneeded pressure and stress, not to mention that parents often have to take holiday time during the long break for childcare reasons and not always for relaxing reasons.

Research shows that 64% of working mothers struggle to manage school holidays as well as work responsibilities. A further 60% said that when employers deny time off requests, this negatively impacts their relationship with their children and makes them feel “like a bad parent.” It is understandable that the business has to function and not many can allow their parental workforce to be all off at once but what can you do that is fair to both parties and hopefully ensure productivity does not dip and that your work force takes the rest they need?

It is a reality that when work requests are denied or discouraged, employers are more likely to ring in sick. Sick leave can negatively impact your productivity, team morale and bottom line. This is a losing situation for both parties. This doesn’t need to be the case. There are some excellent ways employers can step up to the plate and support working parents to reduce some of the stress caused by school holidays and to the problem of accruing holidays that their workforce has been unable to take.

Entitled Leave: While school holidays can be a stressful time for parents to get days off, working parents are entitled to both paid and unpaid leave. However, this has to be requested and granted, not just taken without agreement. Holiday entitlement is a popular choice for working parents needing to take time off work to cover childcare. All employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid leave, which unfortunately doesn’t cover the 13 weeks of school holidays plus other in-service days. Some employers give more leave than the statutory minimum, which is 20 days plus 8 public holidays (in England), so you do have choices on what to do with the additional days.

Working parents have the right to take up to four weeks of unpaid leave, per child, per year. This entitlement provides working parents with up to 13 weeks’ leave but is only available for parents with children under the age of 17. Employees must give the employer 21 days’ notice if they want to use any unpaid leave. 

Flexible Working: An employee can legally request flexible working hours once they’ve been with the company for 26 weeks. Requests are made either through a statutory request, which gives the employer a time frame of three months to grant the request, objectively justify why flexible hours cannot be granted, or come to a middle ground that works for both parties. 

There are multiple ways to support working parents during the school holidays and ways you can encourage them to take their accrued holidays. 

Flexible working is one of the best ways for employees to achieve a better work-life balance. This can be as simple as allowing employees to start work later or finish earlier so parents can be around more for their children during school holidays. Taking holidays in small bites, such as working for a period of 4 days a week, etc., until the holiday is used up.

There are benefits for both the employer and employee when flexible working hours are introduced, including: 

  • Happier employees & higher productivity. In a recent survey, 20% of working parents said they are “much more productive due to flexible working hours.” A further 15% added that they’re “happier,” as it means they now have more family time. 
  • Increased talent. When flexible hours are offered, working parents are more likely to accept a job or promotion. Only two-fifths of working parents were offered flexible working hours before or during their interview. While there’s still some room for improvement, this figure suggests that employers are starting to understand the benefits of flexible working.

Temporary remote working agreements: Another way to help accommodate working parents could be by offering to do some work remotely during the summer or half-term breaks. While parents are still available for important calls and meetings, they also fulfil their duties from their own home, which reduces their childcare costs significantly and the cost of commuting, fostering goodwill. 

Benefits of remote working include: 

  • Less time is spent commuting. Working parents usually have travel expenses; therefore, having the option to work remotely helps cut employee costs. 
  • Career Advancement. Research shows that 36% of working parents would prefer to work from home and will turn down positions that don’t allow them to do so to achieve a healthier work-life balance. 

As an employer, there are multiple ways to support working parents during the school holidays, as well as encouraging workers to take accrued holidays. 

  • Provide more flexibility with deadlines during the school holiday period. 
  • Avoid scheduling any diary-buster meetings. 
  • Allow employees to leave work early and pick up again after the kids have gone to bed.
  • Measure employee performance by output rather than presenteeism.
  • Ask employees without children to provide additional cover. 
  • Consider alternative flexible working arrangements, like compressed or term-time hours.
  • Acknowledge that working parents feel guilty, either way and be empathetic to their needs. 
  • Understanding that holiday can be ‘rolled over’ into the next holiday year (as long as the statutory amount of time off has been reached) and buying back holiday (again, as long as the statutory amount of time off has been taken)

Holidays not taken during the year: Employers need to keep an eye on accruing holiday entitlement during the year. Often, it gets to the end of the year and some employers are shocked to find that some employees have lots of holiday yet to take (and not just the ones with children).

Often, all this untaken holiday cannot be factored into the remaining holiday year timeframe without causing major productivity problems. This is why it is vital that line managers monitor this closely, month after month. 

Any problems please do give us a call.