If you are looking after a child who is not your own on a regular basis, you may have similar rights to take time off work as if you were a parent. The kind of leave you are entitled to take depends on what kind of care arrangement you have with the child. This may be an informal arrangement, a special guardianship order or a more formal foster arrangement.
You should check to see whether your employer has any special policies on leave for carers – this may be more generous than the law. You should also consider requesting flexible working if you think you need to change your working arrangements long term.
- What kind of arrangement do you have with the child?
- Parental Leave
- Time off For Dependants
- Flexible Working
The type of leave you can take depends on the type of care arrangement you have with the child. Below is an explanation of different types of arrangements, and the types of leave you can take.
Kinship carers are those who look after someone else’s child on a full time basis, usually because the parents are not able to look after them. Arrangements can be informal or formal.
Informal Kinship Care
If you are an informal kinship carer, you are not be entitled to Parental Leave – in order to be entitled, you must have parental responsibility for the child. However, you may still be able to take Time Off for Dependants or request flexible working.
If you are an informal kinship carer for someone else’s child, you could consider applying for a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. This would give you parental responsibility over the child, which would allow you to take Parental Leave.
Applying for one of these orders is a big step, and you should take legal advice if you are considering it. Child Law Advice provides free legal advice on kinship care arrangements.
Kinship Foster Care
Kinship foster care is a more formal arrangement. The local authority will be involved, and will place the child with a relative or close person. The child is then known as a ‘looked after child’. If you are a kinship foster carer, you will probably have undergone a fostering assessment and will receive a fostering allowance.
As a kinship foster carer, you do not have parental responsibility for the child, so you are not eligible for Parental Leave, unless you have a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. However, you may still be able to take Time Off for Dependants or request flexible working.
If you have any questions about kinship care arrangements, or whether you have parental responsibility, Child Law Advice provides free legal advice.
To be eligible for Parental Leave, you must be an employee, have worked for your employer for at least once a year, and have parental responsibility for a child under 18. ‘Parental responsibility’ means, for example, having a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. Your kinship carer status will determine whether or not you are entitled to take parental leave to care for the child in question.
Parental leave can be taken a week at a time, unless the child is disabled – in this case, it can be taken a day at a time. Each carer with parental responsibility may not take more than four weeks a year per child. If you work a different number of days per week, or if you only work certain weeks of the year, you have to calculate your average working week.
To take parental leave, you must give your employer at least 21 days’ notice and tell them when the leave would start and finish. We have a template notice letter you can use to request parental leave.
Your employer is not entitled to refuse your request for parental leave, but they can postpone it for up to six months if the business would be particularly disrupted. The employer must follow a specific procedure if this is the case.
Time Off for Dependants is available to all employees, regardless of how long they’ve been employed. It allows you to take time off in an emergency, for example if a dependant is ill or needs you to deal with a disruption or breakdown in care. You are only entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the immediate problem.
“Dependants” includes someone living with you as part of your family, so you will be entitled to this leave for this child regardless of whether you have legal responsibility for the child. As long as the child is regularly in your care and living with you as part of your family, you can be eligible to take Time Off for Dependants.
If the arrangement with the child that you are looking after is long term, you may consider requesting flexible working. ‘Flexible working’ is a very broad term. It can mean part-time work, job-sharing, working from home, or working reduced hours in the school holidays.
All employees have the right to request flexible working if they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. Your employer must deal with your request in a reasonable manner, and can only refuse your request for good business reasons. They are expected to respond to your request within three months.
Any change made to your working arrangements under a flexible working request is permanent, so this solution is more suitable if you are looking after the child long term. Changes to your working hours may also have a financial impact. There is more information on flexible working available on our website.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.