Allowing your employees flexible working hours and haveing a good parental leave system in place will boost their motivation and increase your reputation as an employer of choice. So, implementing a clear strategy could help both employee attraction and retention.

Aside from the value of high morale, many of your employees will actually legally qualify for parental leave, and those who don’t may ask for it anyway, so it’s best to prepare for it.

Parental leave

Employees that qualify for parental leave can take time off to look after their children, it’s generally unpaid but you can offer paid leave as a benefit if you wish to. Times employees might request parental leave are:

  • Straight after maternity, paternity or adoption leave - if they’ve given the appropriate notice.
  • To be with their child during a hospital stay.
  • To spend more time with their child in their early years.
  • When choosing schools.

A parent is entitled to 18 weeks of leave for every child they have until the child turns five, which averages at around two and a half weeks per year. However, if that child receives disability allowance the entitlement goes up to 18 weeks until the child turns 18. The allowance works the same way for adopted children; up to 18 weeks until the fifth anniversary of the child being adopted, or until their 18th birthday, whichever happens first.

Employees who have completed at least one year of continuous service with you are entitled to parental leave. Also, both parents are entitled to the leave as long as they both have formal parental responsibility for the child. Normally, the employee must provide a birth or adoption certificate and if they don’t live with the child, they must provide evidence that they have legal parental responsibility.

Foster parents are not usually entitled to parental leave, but some employers will offer it as an extra incentive.

Flexible working

Employees that don’t qualify for parental leave can still request flexible working to take care of their child, or an adult. Many employees have a statutory right to request this, and there are a number of ways you can oblige, depending on the employee’s needs. You can offer paid holiday, unpaid leave, emergency leave (if it’s very short notice) and longer-term flexible working arrangement solutions.

Flexible working arrangements can increase an employee’s productivity so it’s well worth considering the options. Discuss what works best for you both you and the employee, options include: ‘flexi-time’, ‘compressed hours’ and ‘annualised hours’. All of these solutions mean the employee will work their allocated hours, but not necessarily at the same times every week.

If you’re unwilling to change the working hours of your organisation you might want to look into implementing a working from home policy, or even allow job sharing. Of course, every organisation works differently, and you’ll know best what works for you.

Employees can request flexible working arrangements when they’ve worked for you for at least 26 weeks continuously and haven’t applied for flexible work in the past 12 months.

For more information on the matter take a look at the Directgov website.

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