41% unaware of right to unpaid parental leave



Parents may be unnecessarily forking out for summer holiday clubs and childcare because they are unaware of their right to unpaid parental leave, according to a new survey.

The survey of 1,500 mums and dads by employment law specialists Crossland Employment Solicitors found 41% of parents are unaware of their legal right to take unpaid parental leave to care for their children and 75% admit to never having taken advantage of this entitlement.

Unpaid parental leave is available to any employee who has been with the same employer for a year or more so parents can take more time off to care for their child, in addition to their agreed annual holiday leave.  It can be taken for up to four weeks a year, in blocks of one week, to a maximum of 18 weeks for each child before they turn 18.

The findings revealed that half of fathers neither know about this employment right, nor how much time they are allowed off, compared to 32% and 38% of mums.

More mothers (33%) than fathers (18%) had exercised their right to unpaid parental leave yet overall, take-up remained at just 25%.

The survey showed 41% of working mums and dads will be leaning on friends and family this Summer for childcare cover while 27% will be spending up to £800 on holiday clubs.

For the entire year, 57% will spend between £50 and £450 a week on childcare from nannies, nurseries to ‘after school’ clubs.

It says poor uptake in unpaid parental leave may not just be down to a lack of awareness. Nearly half of men (47%) and 31% of women worry how taking unpaid leave, such as to care for a child or a sick family member, may impact their career.  Some 39% are concerned that taking extra unpaid time off, in addition to other statutory leave allowances, will be perceived negatively by their employer and colleagues.

Beverley Sunderland, Managing Director of Crossland Employment Solicitors said: “Our research found that 41% of working parents will have to rely on friends and family this Summer to care for their children because they say there’s a real lack of affordable childcare available, yet the same number of parents have no idea about unpaid parental leave.

“Employers need to be more open and transparent with workers about their unpaid leave entitlements as well as creating a culture that encourages employees to take leave rather than it being perceived as something that could damage their career.” 

The survey also found 63% of mums and dads said they could not see themselves taking unpaid carer’s leave of up to a year, as proposed in the Conservatives’ election manifesto but not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

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