63% of parents are unaware of their right to unpaid parental leave


More than half (63%) of respondents who are young parents are not aware of their right to take unpaid parental leave, according to research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Its Better jobs for mums and dads report, which surveyed 1,050 young parents, also found that 51% of respondents who work in low-paid jobs have never been spoken to by their manager about workplace policies that enable staff to balance work and childcare.

The research also found:

  • 47% of respondents struggle to manage work and childcare, and 42% feel penalised at work when they ask for flexibility, for example, receiving fewer hours, different shifts or potentially even losing their job.
  • 58% of respondents who work in low-paid sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care, do not know what parental rights at work they are entitled to, and 49% have not used one or more of their legal rights to time off.
  • 29% of respondents have taken annual leave in the past year in order to care for their child when they are sick, and 24% have asked to take time off with no pay at short notice to deal with a childcare issue within the last 12 months.
  • 48% of male respondents feel stigmatised at work because of the need for flexibility to help manage childcare responsibilities, and 57% of respondents who are fathers have never been spoken to by their employer about work-life balance policies that are in place.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary at TUC, said: “Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door. But 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.

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“Many parents fear losing shifts, taking unpaid leave or being viewed badly at work if they need time off to look after their kids. And it is shocking that some mums and dads are being stopped from taking their children to hospital when they are sick.

“All [employees] 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.”