Accommodating childcare during school holidays

The six-week school holidays are here. They will bring childcare difficulties to some employees. They may bring staffing problems to you. What can you do?

Here are six ideas. One for each week.

If your employee needs to take time off during the school holidays to care for their children, consider:

1 Paid annual leave.

2 Special unpaid leave.

3 Unpaid parental leave. An employee with at least one year’s continuous employment can apply to take up to a maximum of four weeks’ parental leave per child aged under 18 per year. Your employee can take 18 weeks’ parental leave in total per child, including any leave taken with a previous employer in respect of that child. They must give you at least 21 days’ notice unless you agree to less.

4 Permit employees to work compressed hours during the holidays if that will alleviate their difficulties.

5 Temporarily reduce or amend working hours to accommodate childcare needs, for example, allowing some work to be done in the evening or at weekends when there may be someone else available to provide childcare.

6 Allow your employee to work from home if they can do so effectively However, they must still be able to carry out their job duties when working from home and so they should not be providing childcare during their working time.

Note that your employee is unlikely to have a right to statutory unpaid time off for dependants in these circumstances because caring for children during the school holidays is not unexpected. The exception is where your employee had put in place appropriate childcare arrangements for the school holidays, but those arrangements are then unexpectedly disrupted or terminated.

Support those employees who have insufficient childcare over the school summer holidays through no fault of their own. Some may have lost their support network during the pandemic. Others may have used their paid annual leave entitlement to home-school their children when their schools closed or partially closed because of Covid-19.

Discourage your employee from using some of next year’s entitlement. Robbing Peter to pay Paul will not solve the problem. At best it delays it. Or worse, your employee leaves having taken more holiday than they have accrued leaving you out of pocket if their remaining wages don’t cover the shortfall.