Having to make up hours for taking unpaid leave for childcare

I’m a dad who has been working in this company for less than a year. I have a 2.5 year old child and both my partner and I work full time. My mother looks after our child during the week. Me and my partner both took all our holiday to give my mother time off, but at the end of my work holiday year I needed another 2 weeks to cover my mother going on holiday. I asked for parental leave, but because I was less than a year into my job I was unable to have it. In the end they let me take the time off on the condition I worked the hours back on the weekends. My normal week is 40 hours and I now have to work 60 hours Monday to Saturday for four weeks. I asked to be paid at standard pay, but have just finished my first week to find I’ve been paid at overtime rates over the 40 hours standard. I had to look after my child which is why I took the time off unpaid. Can my employer ask me to work these extra hours and at standard pay? I feel that I had no choice but to look after my child and I have ended up being paid over time by payroll, but don’t know if I should have been. Should I question the overtime pay? I’m on a 11 month probation period as well.

It is correct that you will not be entitled to parental leave until you have been continuously employed by your current employer for at least one year.

As regards the apparent overpayment, your employer can make a deduction from your wages where the payment was clearly made by mistake. Based on the information you have provided, there is a possibility that this could happen and having spotted this yourself, you should raise this now and see what your employer’s response is.

If your employer says that this is clearly a mistake, I do consider that you should try to renegotiate the rate at which you are paid for working at weekends as part of the process of working back the 60 hours.

If the time you took off was due to an unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of your child/ a dependent you could ask your employer to re-consider and treat the time taken as unpaid leave taken to care for a dependent. This option should enable you to ask for reasonable unpaid time off to look after your child but this is only available if this was not a pre-planned holiday, as this provision only allows for unpaid  time off to cover emergencies, when childcare arrangements have unexpectedly fallen through.

Alternatively, I recommend that you look at your Contract of Employment and/or any overtime agreement to see exactly what they say about how their respective terms can be varied. You should highlight any aspects of these documents insofar as they support your argument that you should be paid at the higher rate. If their terms can only be changed by written agreement, you may be able to argue that the verbal agreement should not stand.

When you do approach your employer, as you have had the “benefit” of 2 weeks unpaid leave and have been employed less than 2 years so that you have not yet acquired the right not to be unfairly dismissed, you should try to be as conciliatory as possible when you do raise this.  In future, you may wish to consider making use of the unpaid leave facility to care for dependants in emergencies, as mentioned above, or making an application for flexible working, insofar as these are appropriate. The fact that you are a man should not affect the above advice.

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