More than half of young working parents in low-paid jobs are not aware of their right to take parental leave to look after their child.

The research, carried out by Trades Union Congress (TUC), revealed that 51% of parents in jobs like retail and social care have never been spoken to about their workplace’s policies.

The report also found that parents who require flexible working are often denied basic employment rights. Many face having shifts changed at short notice and experience uncertainty over finishing times.

Of the 1,000 parents polled, two out of five (19%) of the young parents said that they had been given rotas with less than one weeks’ notice, making it difficult to plan adequate childcare.

The right to parental leave

Many of the parents questioned in the report said that they had been told they should take sick leave or use their holiday to cover childcare.

In fact, all parents who have worked for their employer for at least one year are entitled to request unpaid leave.

Entitlement to parental leave

You have the right to request up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental between your child’s birth (or adoption) up until they reach their 18th birthday.

A maximum of four weeks can be used in a single year, although individual employers may agree to other arrangements.  For example, if you usually work four days a week, a ‘week’ of parental leave will counts as four days

Parental leave must be booked in whole week blocks, not single days, unless your employer agrees otherwise.

Common reasons for taking parental leave:

  • Family emergencies, such as a child falling ill or a problem with childcare arrangements
  • Spend more time with their children
  • Look at new schools
  • Settle a child into new childcare arrangements
  • Spend more time with family, such as visiting grandparents

All your employment rights, including holidays and the right to return to your usual job, are protected while you are on parental leave.

To qualify you must:

  • have been in your current job for more than a year
  • you’re named on your child’s birth or adoption certificate, or have been awarded parental responsibility through the courts
  • be classified as an ‘employee’, not self-employed or a ‘worker’, such as an agency worker
  • have given your employer 21 days’ notice, except in emergency situations

If you feel you’re being discriminated against for needing to take parental leave, seek advice from:

For more information on parental leave visit: