I would like some advice around understanding my rights as a working mother and taking planned leave the same time each year due to no adequate childcare. My son’s school is closed over the Christmas period along with the breakfast club and afterschool club that is attached to the school usually at least two days before my office closes, resulting in me having no childcare therefore needing to request annual leave for those two days each year. I have worked for my employer for almost two years. I was granted the days last year and had put in my request again this year. I was told by my manager that this would be granted again this year, but that I could not ask for this next year as I need to give others those days off, although I am the only one with a child. I was also told that the needs of the service comes before me needing to care for my child and that I need to pre-plan ahead for childcare. I was told no matter what that I would not be granted this time off again. I would like to know where I stand with this.
The starting position is that employers generally have the right to refuse or accept holiday requests depending on business needs.
It is therefore strange that your employer already appears to have decided that your holiday next year will not be granted. However, if you do make the holiday request and it is not accepted, then you could consider either raising a grievance in this regard – on the basis that there seems to be no business reason for refusing the holiday time – or you could make a request for parental leave, which is a right of employees with at least one year’s service and parental responsibility for a child under the age of 18 to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave per child for the purpose of caring for that child. Your employer may have a policy in relation to taking parental leave, but if not there is a default statutory framework for this.
If your employer refuses your holiday without good reason, and you are unable to resolve this either informally via discussion or formally via a grievance then you should make enquiries regarding parental leave as your employer may have a scheme for this. If it does not then you should discuss how you could take this with your employer as a last resort.
An employee can make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal in the event that an employer has unreasonably postponed a period of unpaid parental leave requested by an employee or if it has prevented an employee from taking unpaid parental leave. Such a complaint must be presented within three months.