Taking time off work to settle children into school

Trying to balance work and childcare at the start of the new school year can be hard for many families, as parents often need extra time off work to help children who are starting school for the first time settle into their new environment.

Some working parents find it difficult to fit in shifts and working patterns while trying to settle children into their new school, as many schools operate a staggered start for children. This could mean children attending for just the morning or afternoon at first, or else not going in every day for the first few days or even weeks. Children new to school may also start the term later than older children.

Some employers may be supportive of working parents over this period allowing them to work flexibly. Below are some options available to working parents in these situations.

Parental leave

Parental Leave may be an opportunity for working parents to take time off to settle children into school. Employees will be able to take up to four weeks off during a year per child, but they must give at least 21 days' notice before the intended start date. Parental leave cannot be taken as "odd" days off, unless the employer agrees otherwise or the child is disabled - it should be taken in blocks of a week or multiples of a week.

Parental leave is normally unpaid and is available for each child up to their 18th birthday. An employee must have completed one year's continuous service with an employer, after which they are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted.

Annual leave

Most workers - whether part-time or full-time - are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. Additional annual leave may be agreed as part of a worker's contract. Some employers may be supportive of parents who are settling children into school when looking at leave requests.

The employer should have a policy regarding when leave can be taken and how many people can be off at any one time etc. Employers should be fair and consistent with all staff when considering requests. While employees have the right to statutory annual leave, the employer can say when leave can or cannot be taken. Some organisations stop people taking leave at certain times of the year or during busy periods.

You can also read more about holiday entitlements in this Acas download: pdf icon Advice leaflet - Holidays and holiday pay [266kb].

Flexible working

If a request for flexible working is made the employer will need to agree any new work pattern, however once agreed it will make a permanent change to the terms and conditions of employment. If an employee wants a temporary change to their work pattern to help settle children into school they may be able to negotiate an agreement with the employer.

You can read more about flexible working in this Acas download: pdf icon The right to request flexible working: an Acas guide [186kb].

Working from home

Homeworking is a type of flexible working which, depending on the agreement between employer and employee can be also used in conjunction with other arrangements such as flexible hours, working part-time, term-time working or working the employer's core hours.

Many staff who work from home say they have a better work-life balance, even if they only do it some of the time. Homeworking can cover a variety of arrangements, including:

  • working entirely at home apart from attending regular or occasional meeting at the workplace or with customers
  • time split between workplace and home or with customers - for example, two days in the workplace and three days at home or with customers
  • mostly in the workplace, working from home only occasionally.

You can read more about home working in this Acas download: pdf icon Homeworking - a guide for employers and employees [272kb].