Five things employers shouldn’t say to parents

Yellow dice with the word no

Yellow dice with the word noYou have rights at work as a parent, but your boss may not always think so! Here are some of the things you might hear your employer say about your hours – and why you don’t have to let them get away with it.


No one likes to risk annoying their boss with family issues. But, as a parent, you need to make time for your kids too.

Luckily, UK mums and dads are protected by anti-discrimination laws, plus a growing family friendly culture – so your boss has no excuse for not understanding your issues.

The key is to know the rights for working parents. Learn about your company’s policies on areas such as parental leave and flexible working, and be upfront about any problems you’re having.

Here, we look at some of the things you may hear your employer say at work – and how you should respond.

1. ‘You can’t take time off to help your child – you don’t have any holiday left’

Kids sometimes need their parents and thankfully the government understands that – even if your boss might not. By law, if you’ve worked for your company for one year, you’ll be entitled to 13 weeks parental leave until your child is five.

So if you need to get your child settled in new childcare arrangements, or see them through a spell in hospital, you can request to use your parental leave. You should give 21 days notice if you can. And while most parental leave is unpaid, some companies do help employees financially.

2. ‘You have to stay late again’

Most workers are not obliged by law to work more than 48 hours per week and are entitled to 11 hours rest in between shifts. If your manager is making heavy demands on your time, it’s best to contact your HR department, or speak to your union representative to find out how best to handle the situation.

If everyone is obliged to stay late, you may have to fill in a flexible working application so you can agree your own hours.

3. ‘Those are our standard working hours and I can’t change them just because you’ve had kids’

You are entitled to apply for flexible working if you’re a parent caring for a child under 16 and you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks.

Present your case positively – alternative work patterns, such as staggered shifts, can even help relieve a manager’s workload.

Your employer must consider your case fairly and have a strong business reason for rejecting your application.

4. ‘You can’t work flexibly – I just don’t like the idea’

If your application for flexible working is rejected you have the right to appeal on a number of grounds. Get some employment rights advice. You can speak to your union representative if you have one, or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Advisory service Acas also has a useful A to Z of employment rights directory online.

There are a number of ways you can resolve the problem, from an internal grievance hearing, to taking a case to a tribunal. If you think you need an employment solicitor, most will offer you an initial consultation for free.

5. ‘Before I give you this promotion, can I just ask if you’re pregnant or plan to have any more children?’

Getting a promotion or a better paid job is a top priority for many of us in the current economic climate.

If an employer, or a future employer at interview, asks whether you are pregnant or plan to have children, then they may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. You should seek legal advice as soon as possible, from either your union, the Citizens Advice Bureau or an employment lawyer.