Help received by parents of disabled children
Working Families, uniquely, works with employers and employees to help parents and carers find a better balance between their work commitments and home responsibilities.
Working Families and its Working On campaign aims to:
- raise awareness of the difficulties faced by parents of disabled children combining work and care
- encourage change in childcare provision, employment practice and support services to enable more parents of disabled children to enter and remain in work
- identify key partners to champion the needs of parents of disabled children
- change attitudes: parents of disabled children CAN work and need support to remain employed
Tom’s Story – negotiating flexible working after a change in circumstances
Tom is the father of a teenage boy with special needs and he contacted us for advice. He is separated from his son’s mother and when he first requested flexible working from his employer, he had care of his son at the weekends. He was later given full-time care of his son, but because he had already requested flexible working formally, less than a year previously (which was refused), he couldn’t make a further formal request.
Our Advice Line advised that, although he didn’t have a statutory right to make a further request if his initial one was definitely made under the regulations, the employer could consider a further request, and it would be good practice for them to do so. Employers can always be more generous than the law. However, he wouldn’t be able to force his employer to consider his request, unless he could show that last year’s request wasn’t a formal one.
We also advised him to try negotiating, as perhaps he can argue for a temporary reduction in hours whilst he adjusts to being a full-time parent. He should look into whether he can claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for his son, as this will help him financially and might give him other options if he is unable to agree a feasible working pattern.
Susannah’s Story – using Parental Leave
Susannah rang the Waving not drowning helpline to say that she worked for a manufacturing company with a very male environment for a rather old fashioned boss in the North East of England. Her little boy, has a deteriorating illness. He was getting worse and was being difficult with his childminder. She’d asked for some time off but her boss had turned her down and told her that if he allowed her to take time off it everyone would want time off.
We were able to explain to her about emergency and parental leave. We told her that she had a legal right to take to take some time off if an emergency arose around her son or his care arrangements, but what really interested her was her right to parental leave. She was entitled take four weeks, albeit unpaid, leave to be with her son. She felt it would give her the opportunity to spend time with her son, settle him down and sort out appropriate care arrangements.
Loosing four weeks’ pay would put a strain on her budget, but during the conversation the advisor found out that Susannah was a lone parent in receipt of Working Tax Credit. SheI reminded her that once the details of her reduced income had worked their way through the system she would be compensated in part through her Tax Credits for her loss of wages.
The Advisor also told Susannah that if she felt that reducing her hours or altering the way the worked would help her then she had the right to request flexible working and she was welcome to ring the Advice Line again if she wanted to discuss the procedure.
Susannah rang off feeling that she would now be able to balance her responsibility for her sick child and her work commitments and she was looking forward to receiving the Waving not drowning newsletter which would keep her in touch with her rights in the workplace and enable her to share the experiences of other working parents of disabled children.
Morag’s story – using the right to request flexible working.
Morag’s phone call to the Waving Not Drowning helpline was typical. The home-school transport arrangements for her disabled son had been changed. She needed to leave her work 30 minutes earlier in order to be home in time. He has severe learning difficulties and so she has to be there when he comes home.
She told our Advisor that she’d been with her employer for five years, working three days a week doing admin and reception work. She wanted to cut her lunch hour down to half an hour and leave the office earlier but felt that her employer wouldn’t hear of it.
Morag’s son was 14, and she receives Disability Living Allowance for him. She had the right to request to change her hours under the right to request flexible working legislation. Her employer had to consider each request on a case-by-case basis and he could only turn down her request on one of the business grounds specified in the legislation.
We asked Morag about how her work was organised and it transpired that it would be helpful to everyone in the office if she were more available in the middle of the day, their busy time, and her colleagues who dealt with phone calls on the days she was not there could answer the few calls that would come in after 4.30. Her boss could not make a business case for refusing her.
Our Advisor went through with Morag the formal procedure for making her request to change her hours and told her that if her employer did not hold a meeting with her as the law obliges him to or in any way failed to follow the procedure or if he still turned her down she should ring the Advice Line again so that we could explore how to take it further.
Now she knew where she stood, Morag was able to negotiate the hours she needed. Allowing Morag a little bit of flexibility saved her employer from losing an experienced member of staff and the cost and trouble of recruiting someone new.