Family friendly working

Family-friendly working: an introduction

Every parent understands how hard it can be to balance the demands of work with those of their family. Some employers understand the challenges parents face and offer flexible work arrangements to make life easier.

Finding a healthy work/life balance is an area where management and unions work well together. Employers want a happy, focused workforce and UNISON wants its members to be treated fairly and to have the chance to be a valued member of the workforce without compromising their family commitments or general wellbeing.

Parental leave

Parental leave gives parents of children aged up to five (or 18 if the child is disabled) additional leave so they can spend more time with their children.

If you have been continuously employed for a year, you are entitled to 18 weeks for each child, up to their fifth birthday. While there is no legal requirement for your employer to pay you for parental leave, some do.

You may get a certain amount of parental leave on full or half pay and the rest unpaid. Check with your employer to find out what you are entitled to.

Flexible working

You have the right to request flexible working from your employer if you have been continuously employed by them for at least 26 weeks.

Flexible working can include working part-time, job sharing, shift working, working school hours, staggering your time and working from home.

Although you have the right to ask your employer for flexible working arrangements, they also have the right to refuse – but they can only do that after considering your case carefully and giving you a good business reason for not offering you flexible working. You can appeal the decision but at the end of the day the employer retains the right to refuse a request.

What to consider before asking for flexible working arrangements

Before you approach your employer, think carefully about how flexible working might affect you and your employer:

  • what do you want? Your employer will need to know all the details before they can make a decision
  • be realistic and balance your needs with those of your employer
  • think about how your salary will be affected – can you afford to work fewer hours?

What happens if your employer says no to a flexible working request?

If your employer refuses a request for flexible working, speak to your UNISON representative, who will be able to advise you on your next steps.

Key facts
  • It can be hard to balance the needs of your family with those of your employer but it’s in everyone’s interests to get the balance right.
  • There are several family-friendly working options you can consider, including parental leave and flexible working arrangements.
  • Your employer should be keen to help you find the right work/life balance because they want you to be happy and focused on your work.
  • Parental leave and flexible working arrangements are two ways to make work more family-friendly.


Family friendly working

  • What happens if my children are sick? Can I take time off work?

    You don’t have an automatic right to time off work for your children’s medical appointments but you do have the right to time off for emergencies.

    You can also use parental leave if you qualify. See Working Families for more information.

  • What should I do if I’m having problems at work caused by family demands?

    Try to sort it out informally with your employer first, but if that fails keep a diary of the conversations you’re having with your manager and the human resources department.

    Ask your UNISON rep for advice.

  • What should I think about before asking for flexible working?

    Think about what’s realistic. How much of your income can you afford to lose? How much time do you think your employer can give you? Will your career suffer as a result? How much does childcare cost and is it available?