Do you know your rights for flexible working? Or what you’re allowed to do when the kids are sick? Many working mums haven’t got a clue when it comes to what we’re entitled to, and a lot of employers certainly don’t make it easy.
Make sure you know your rights as a working mum and let your employer know that you’re clued up!
If you’re going on maternity leave soon or just planning for the future, there’s a lot to think about. Before you have that conversation with your boss, make sure you know what you’re entitled to.
Women are entitled to maternity leave and statutory maternity pay as long as they’ve been employed by the same company for 26 weeks before the 15th week of the pregnancy. You have the right to take 52 weeks off work – made up of 33 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML).
The government will only pay statutory maternity pay for up to 39 weeks of leave. You’ll receive 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks and £136.78 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. If you choose to take 52 weeks off, the remaining 13 weeks will be unpaid.
If your baby is born early then your maternity leave starts the day after the birth. The earliest your paid maternity leave can start is the 11th week before your baby is due. You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks off, but you must take at least two weeks off after the birth of your baby.
Dads (biological and adoptive), husbands, civil partners, and partners of either sex can take paternity leave as long as they live with the mother or adopter. Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days of the baby’s birth or when the child was placed for adoption.
All parents can apply for Shared Parental Leave, it gets a bit complicated so rather than trying to explain it, you can read all about it here.
Taking days off when the kids are sick
One of the most stressful things about being a working mum is having to call your boss if the kids are sick. It will happen to everyone at some point but so many people aren’t aware of what they’re actually entitled to in these situations.
There’s no limits on how many times you can take unpaid leave to look after your child when they’re sick but your employer may want to talk to you if they think the time off is affecting your work. Your employer might still pay you for the time off but they don’t have to. They cannot discipline or sack you for taking time off to look after a sick child.
You’re also allowed to take unpaid leave to deal with childcare issues, and any other unexpected problems that go with having children. This doesn’t allow for time off for things you knew about in advance, such as hospital appointments.
Breastfeeding and expressing at work
Did you know that by law your employer has to provide you somewhere to rest – this includes being able to lie down – if you are still breastfeeding when you return to work.
If you’re still breastfeeding, or if you’ve given birth less than 26 weeks ago, you’re also entitled to the same health and safety protection as when you were working whilst pregnant. Your employer has to assess the health and safety risks to you and make any changes as necessary.
Your employer does not have to allow you extra breaks or time off to breastfeed or express. However, they should consider the request and provide reasons why it’s not possible. If they don’t provide reasons before declining your request you may have grounds for indirect sex discrimination.
One of the big things, when you return to work after having a baby, is having the opportunity for flexible working to let you balance work and family life. All working parents with children under 16 have the right to work flexible hours in order to ensure they can look after their children properly.
This means you can request a change to your hours, a change to your start and finish times, and to work from home. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’.
Employers have to take all requests seriously and deal with them in a ‘reasonable manner’. Handling requests in a reasonable manner includes thinking about the advantages and disadvantages, holding a meeting with the employee to discuss the request, and offering an appeal process.
Your employer can refuse an application for flexible working if they have a good reason to do so. However, if they don’t deal with it in a reasonable manner then you can take them to an employment tribunal – because women tend to have more childcare responsibilities than men, insisting that women work inflexible hours can be seen as indirect sex discrimination.
I’m no expert in these areas though, so if you have any questions on your rights as a working mum I’d recommend doing a lot of internet research before you speak to your employer. Good places to start are Citizens Advice and Acas.
Have you struggled with any of these issues when returning to work? Or do you have all this to sort out when you go back to work soon?