At Last - Freedom to Work and Care; A New Law Means Working Parents May No Longer Have to Bend over Backwards to Satisfy Their Employers. Penny Fray Reports
Byline: Penny Fray
DO YOU dread the start of the school holidays? Does the children's Christmas break mean a stressful couple of weeks as you try to juggle work commitments with arrangements to keep your little darlings safe and entertained?
And what about the sudden phone call from the nursery demanding that you drop that meeting to come and collect your fever-filled child ``NOW!''
For working mothers and fathers, every day is a potential balancing act as they try to escape the wrath of their boss and colleagues - as well as the clutches of the NSPCC. It adds up to millions of people desperate to work flexible hours.
But come April, their wish may be granted as a controversial new law introduces a number of key changes to a parent's employment rights.
In other words, if you need to care for a child you can demand to work from home or change your working hours.
This comes as a welcome relief for parents whose lives have been made a misery by the weight of work and child obligations.
Kim Rothwell's lawyer Tudor Williams believes it's about time that the law recognises employee's rights for better child provisions. Had this employment legislation been operative sooner, she would never have had to quit her job and take her boss to tribunal.
The 30-year-old single mum from Llandudno was a victim of sex discrimination because of changes in her working hours that stopped her from picking up her young child from school.
Kim's boss, Derek Noble, said that she had to work an extra 15 minutes each day, forcing her to quit her job as general assistant manager of a Llandudno pizza emporium Until this point, he had been happy for her to work until 2.45pm, giving her time to collect her son Jordan. Her lawyer, Tudor Williams, from Wrexham, successfully argued that the discrimination lay in the fact that the number of women who could comply with the new rota was considerably smaller than the proportion of men. But he believes that a new flexibility provision will make things much easier for mums who want to pursue their careers.
``The Employment Act 2002 creates powerful rights for working parents,'' explains Andrew Gibson, an employment specialist for Hill Dickenson Solicitors in Liverpool.
``And if they want to work more flexible hours, they no longer have to rely on unsuitable redresses like breach of contract, sexual discrimination or constructive dismissal, which can be difficult to prove. They now have real advantages with the burden of proof now lying with the employer.''
In other words, your boss can only refuse to vary the terms and conditions of your job if it either costs too much money, has a negative impact on the quality of your work and, finally, inconveniences your colleagues or customers.
SO, if you're considering using your infant as an excuse to abandon a tough working project to go shopping, think again.
Child-free workers will definitely not be dumped with excess tasks and longer hours.
``The law is not designed to impact on others,'' explains Andrew. ``But if you have a legitimate claim, then you need to inform your employer of your childcare needs.''
The application must be made in writing within 14 days of the child's sixth birthday (or 18, if disabled). After this, your boss will have to follow a set timetable to consider the request, discuss the application as well as giving you a right to appeal.
According to Andrew, if your employer says ``no'' to flexi-time, you can then apply to an Employment Tribunal for an order that forces them to reconsider or give your compensation.
And don't think an empowered army of parents won't. According to Andrew, people are no longer afraid of being stigmatised as trouble makers by taking their employers to a tribunal.
``In my experience, they know their rights and aren't afraid to use them,'' he says. …