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For many working people, family comes before everything else. And in recent years, the law has become more sensitive to the needs of parents and carers. But juggling work and family is still a struggle for working mums and dads.

If you have caring responsibilities – whether for children, elderly or disabled relatives, or other dependents – you have legal rights designed to help you balance the different parts of your life.

Most mums and dads have a statutory right to take paid time off around their baby’s birth. And many employers will have their own maternity and paternity leave policies that go beyond the legal minimum.

In addition, all employees have the right to request flexible working, once they have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks. This  can help parents and other carers to manage their different responsibilities.

And you should never be discriminated against or harassed because of pregnancy or maternity, or because you care for a disabled person.

You also have specific rights if you work part-time, say while your children are school-age. Anyone who works less than full-time hours is a part-time worker, so this includes, for example, anyone on a zero hours contract.

This section will offer guidance on your rights, and on how you can make your working life more family-friendly.

But it shouldn’t be taken as legal or financial advice. The law in this area is complex and every case is different. Before taking any action, seek individual advice from your union or a qualified adviser.

I've got a young family and would like to change my work patterns. What are my rights?
As long as you are an employee, and you have been working continuously for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you have the right to make a request to work flexibly, and for your employer to consider that request.
How much Shared Parental Leave can I take?
The maximum amount of Shared Parental Leave is 50 weeks because mothers and adopters must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity or adoption leave.
My flexible working appeal has been turned down. Is there anything else I can do?
You should get legal advice if your application becomes disputed.

Another way forward might be through workplace mediation. Speak to your rep and your employer to see whether mediation might work for you.
What does 'flexible working' mean?
The concept of flexible working is very wide, and you could ask for a variety of different work patterns or arrangements under these new rights. For example working from home,
job-sharing, teleworking, term-time working, compressed hours, flexitime, staggered hours,
annualised hours and self-rostering.
Under what circumstances can my employer refuse my request for flexible working?
Your employer may only turn down a request for flexible working on one or more of a number of ‘business’ grounds. These are: burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand, inability to reorganise work among existing staff, inability to recruit additional staff, detrimental impact on quality, detrimental impact on performance;
insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work and
planned structural changes.
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