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Why we need better jobs for the UK's working mums and dads

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When Becky’s daughter became very ill on a Saturday evening, she brought her to A&E.

The nine-month-old was diagnosed with tonsillitis and an infection in both ears.

The next day, which happened to be Father’s Day, Becky had to miss work to look after her little girl. But when she went back on Monday her manager accused her of lying so that she could take Father’s Day off.

Becky is one of thousands of young parents who simply aren’t getting the support they deserve at work.

Earlier this year, we surveyed more than 1,000 low-paid mums and dads. Almost half of them are struggling to juggle work and childcare. And 42% told us they feel penalised at work when they ask for flexibility. They report getting fewer hours and worse shifts after asking for more family-friendly working patterns, or even losing their jobs.

Anyone who’s been a parent knows how hard it can be to balance work and home. And it’s only getting tougher for young mums and dads in today’s world of work, where irregular hours are becoming more and more common.

One in four parents told us they’d had their shifts changed at short notice, and one in five are given their rota less than a week in advance. It’s a nightmare to plan childcare under those conditions.

That’s why we think government should make sure that everyone gets at least a month’s notice of their shifts.

They also need to make sure everyone at work gets the same parents’ rights from day one, and that everyone knows about them.

Because right now, young mums and dads don’t know their rights – and employers aren’t telling.

Nearly two in three of the parents we spoke to didn’t know about their right to unpaid parental leave, and almost half weren’t using one or more of their legal rights to time off. In the last year alone, 29% have been forced to take annual leave to cover their child being sick.

And in the worst cases, vindictive bosses are stopping people from leaving work even in emergencies. One woman told us that when her baby stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital, she was threatened with disciplinary action for leaving work.

There can be particular challenges for young dads. They want more time to spend with their families, but too many workplaces are stuck in the past. 48% of the dads we spoke to feel guilty bringing up childcare issues at work.

Over the last few decades, we’ve seen improvements in the employment rights of working parents. But there’s still a long way to go. My advice to working dads and mums is this: join a union today. 

We already represent over 300,000 young parents, ensuring they know about how to use their rights, and encouraging employers to develop more family-friendly policies. 

Too many workplaces still expect parents to forget about their kids as soon as they walk in the door. But working together, we can change that.

- This blog originally appeared on Huffington Post

All working mums and dads should get the same parents’ rights from day one Tell Business Secretary Greg Clark to give working parents a boost.
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