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I understand that you are struggling to work because of childcare problems.
Your employer should discuss your individual circumstances with you. In your discussions with your employer, you should consider whether any statutory rights may be engaged. The statutory rights that may assist you are :
1. Time off for dependants. Here, an employee is entitled to take reasonable time off in specified circumstances. There is no obligation on employers to pay the employee for the time off and it is generally a short-term “emergency” leave.
2. Parental Leave. An employee is entitled to take unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks per child. The leave can be taken at any time until the child’s 18th birthday, but specific notice requirements must be adhered to.
3. Furlough. An employer is now permitted to place an employee who is unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from the current pandemic on furlough. This will, of course, be paid in accordance with current Government provisions.
4. Flexible working Application. Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment can make a flexible working application. An employer has three months to respond.
The furlough option would be the most favourable for you at present and I would therefore suggest that you try again to secure your employer’s agreement to this arrangement. If this cannot be secured with your employer, you should consider any alternative work pattern/hours that you can do and discuss this with your employer. You should try to agree this informally in the first instance, but then submit a formal flexible working application if you are unable to agree informally.
Please note, however, that a formal flexible working application may take some time for your employer to respond to. In your conversations with your employer, try to be positive and accommodating, focusing on what you can do and how you could make the situation work, remembering, of course, that this situation is only temporary. Another option for you to suggest to your employer would be a period of unpaid leave to deal with the current crisis situation.
If you do not manage to reach agreement with your employer and they insist on you coming back into work despite the absence of childcare, you may have a claim for indirect sex discrimination and I would advise you to take specific legal advice on this. Any claim would have to be submitted to a tribunal within three months and you must go through the ACAS early conciliation process before you may submit a claim.
If your employer dismisses you for not being able to work due to lack of childcare, this may be unfair, depending on the reason cited by your employer and the process followed in dismissing you. You generally need two years’ continuity to submit an unfair dismissal claim and there are strict time limits. You need to submit a claim within three months of your dismissal and you must go through the ACAS early conciliation process before submitting a claim.