The school holidays are upon us now and while the kids are demob-happy the summer break can be a real headache for working parents.

“So what?” You might say. “Their kids. Their problem”. But it’s definitely in employers interests to do more. The number of parents leaving the workforce to seek more flexibility by working for themselves is ever increasing. A recent survey of 2000 working people in the UK by on-demand staffing app Coople found that one in 5 parents had missed a significant moment in their child’s life because of work. A even more worryingly, 11% said working late and not ‘switching off’ had distanced them from their children.

So with the long school holidays looming, we’ve pulled together a handy checklist on how small business can (reasonably) support parents this summer:

  1. Flexible Hours: Every employee has the right to request flexible working - whether this be flexible hours or location. In both cases, this request must be made in prescribed form and employees are entitled to only one request a year. Fixed office hours can be impractical for parents during the holidays. And the flexibility to work when they want to (often in the early morning or evening) can be a god-send.
  2. Flexible Locations: This does’t always mean working from home. In fact, if the kids are there it’s often the last place parents want be if they’ve got work to do. Working in a location closer to home, however, with a shorter commute could really help. Professional work spaces are popping up all over the place and are a great option here. Not only will they have excellent broadband they can be a valuable networking opportunity too. With both flexible hours and flexible locations, it’s important both parties are clear if this is a permanent of temporary change. If it's for the short term, be sure the time frame is understood.
  3. Parental Leave: Staff that have worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help with childcare. Parental leave generally allows each parent to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child before the child’s 5th birthday. This leave must be taken in blocks of one week and in theory should be requested 21 days in advance (although you may choose to be lenient here). If employees fall within these guidelines, you’ve got little choice but to let them take it unless there are sound business reasons why not that would stand up to scrutiny at a tribunal.
  4. Time Off For Dependents: Any employee (however long they have worked for you) can ask for “time off for dependents” to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and whilst there’s no set time, if its regarding a childcare issue 1-2 days would be reasonable, before it then becomes Parental Leave (above).
  5. Summer Childcare Guide: There are often lots of summer childcare options available locally but sometimes it can take hours of research to get all the information. A great task for the work experience chap if ever there was one. Make such information easily available to employees on the intranet or noticeboard and who knows, if there’s significant interest you might be able to negotiate a discount or even provide minibus transport from the office and back.

Holiday requests are likely to be coming in thick and fast. Remember to re-circulate your Holiday Policy so everyone knows the score and read 'Is Your Workplace Beach-Ready?' for straight-talking advice on how to keep everything running smoothly over the next few months.....

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p.s - To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photocredit:  Diana Susselman

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