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I’m just popping out for the rest of the day

Have you blessed the world with your progeny? If so, you may find yourself under pressure to attend a nativity show or carol concert at this time of year. Obviously it won’t be exactly fun, but probably more fun than work.

What are your rights if you want take a day off to attend the performance of a lifetime?

If your child is ill, or there is an emergency, you are entitled to take time off work to ensure your child is looked after and you cannot be disciplined or sacked for taking appropriate time off.   

Going to watch a school play, however, does not really constitute an emergency, but if it something you feel you need to do, the best way is to give as much advance notice as possible, so that, if needed, cover can be found and also because during busy periods, annual leave tends to be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

If you work shifts, ask colleagues if they’d be willing to swap with you; It’s worth checking this before asking to book it off.

If you aren’t able to take it off because of cover or short notice, ask if you can work remotely for a few hours instead. They may consent, providing you’re still accessible over email and/or phone.

If you’re unable to work because it’s especially busy, offer to make up the hours on an alternative day instead. This may involve working an extra few hours in the week or a weekend, but it makes your chances of getting it off much higher.

Often school nativities will be in either the morning or the evening, so offer to work a half day instead. This means your boss will only have to find cover for half the time.

You don’t legally have a right to days off for non-emergencies such as nativities, so if your boss has a genuine reason, they are, obviously, within their rights to refuse you the time off.

However, if you really have exhausted all options and you desperately do need it off, there’s one final option you could consider and that is take off some unpaid leave. In the UK, every employee is entitled to up to 18 weeks’ leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 5th birthday – or 18th if the child has a disability as part of ‘unpaid parental leave’.

The limit on how much parental leave each parent can take a year is four weeks.

You must take parental leave as whole weeks rather than odd days, unless your employer agrees otherwise or your child is disabled.

Eligible employees can request this type of leave to:

Spend more time with their children/look after them

Look at new schools

Settle children into new childcare arrangements

Spend more time with family, such as visiting grandparents

During this period, all of your employment rights will remain protected – such as annual leave entitlement and your right to return to work.

To qualify, you must:

Have worked in the organisation for more than a year

Have “parental responsibility” for the child, as defined under the Children Act 1989

Be named on the child’s birth certificate or have obtained formal legal parental responsibilities.

If you have worked somewhere for 26 weeks, you have the right to ask to work flexibly.

Your employer does not actually have to give it to you – but they do have a duty to consider your request seriously.

They can only turn you down if they have a good business reason to do so, and they have to decide within three months.

The same rights, unfortunately, do not extend to the childless with pets.

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