Q: I have a couple of young mums working for me who recently have been asking for more and more time off last minute, due to childcare problems. The problems seem mainly caused by nursery staff who cannot get to work because of the snow, rail strikes, or else nurseries do not have enough staff to operate fully. As an employer, where do I stand if a member of staff says they cannot get to work due to a lack of childcare?
A: In the case of the weather, or nursery being short-staffed, it is understandable that the lack of childcare could be unforeseen. In this instance your young mums would be entitled to their ‘right to time off for dependents’. The statutory right to take time off for dependants applies to all employees, whether permanent, temporary, full time or part time, and entitlement to it begins on the first day of employment. This legislation allows employees unpaid time off to make alternative arrangements when an emergency situation arises involving a dependant. However, the allowed time off is to make arrangements for the care, not to actually provide the care, though in reality emergency care is often impossible to find on that particular day, which may mean the staff member needs to take off the whole day.
In the incidence of rail strikes, they have consistently been announced two weeks in advance of when they happen so it should have given your young mums plenty of time to make alternative arrangements. If they cannot arrange alternative childcare, then they could take annual leave, or possibly seek agreement from you to work from home that day.
Employment legislation changes frequently, so in order to stay on the right side of the law it is always advisable for employers to seek advice if they are unsure how to handle a particular situation.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194