The Juggling Act: Top Tips for Managing Work & Family Life

Welcome to this week’s Snippet! This week you may have seen toddler; Iris Wronka’s hilarious takeover of an ITV news segment on milk allergies, which resulted in the clip going viral and many joking that “this is what happens when your childminder lets you down at the last minute”.

Childcare and work – the juggling act

Most people who have children also have a desire to continue in their career and professional development. We see no reason why anyone cannot have both! However you don’t need us to tell you that this will almost always require a lot of juggling between caring for your child/ren, and meeting the demands of your job. There is always a time when, despite how organised you are or how well you juggle your work and home life, the proverbial spanner is thrown into the works. The spanner is usually some form of short term illness or your childcare provider/childminder letting you down. Whatever it is, if you have no childcare but need to make it into work, what do you do? 

Legal Rights and Obligations for Employers and Employees

Time off for family and dependents: employees are allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. This is usually taken as unpaid leave (unless the contract provides otherwise) and reserved for situations to deal with an unforeseeable event or emergency. 

Parental leave:  this type of leave would cover non-emergency situations, where a parent or someone with parental responsibility, wishes to spend more time with their child/ren. Parental leave is unpaid and there is a specific eligibility criteria to qualify for it.

Flexible Working: flexible working is becoming much more popular now than ever before, particularly for those with children. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working - not just parents and carers. Provided that an employee has worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more, they are entitled to make a flexible working request. The law requires employers to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and an employer can only refuse a flexible working request on one of the specific grounds set out in the legislation.

Tips for Employers

  • As an employer, you are reliant on your workforce turning up to work and doing their job. This is vital to the smooth running of your business. Unexpected absences can be disruptive to your business, particularly if you are an SME that relies heavily on a small team of employees. Nevertheless, you should have measures in place to deal with unexpected absences:

  • Have a clear absence reporting procedure so that absences are reported in good time, allowing you time to redistribute work if necessary;

  • Ask the employee if there is anything urgent that needs to be covered in their absence;

  • offer remote access so employees can log in from home if they cannot physically attend the office;

  • An absence of a few days is inconvenient to your business but think of the long term – if the employee feels forced to go in they may become resentful and this may in turn affect their productivity;

  • You should not punish employees for needing to care for their child/ren or dependents. This may inadvertently result in a claim for sex discrimination, even if it was not your intention to discriminate;

  • Get your policies and procedures in order.

Tips for Employees

Employees will almost always feel, as if they are letting their employer and colleagues down, by having to take an unexpected absence. However, try not to feel like that. As an employee, it is crucial you know the rights and protections available to you, should you need to take time off to look after you child/ren or loved ones. Employees should:

  • Make sure to report your absence in good time if possible, and in accordance with your employer’s absence reporting procedure;

  • If possible, consider whether you can work from home as opposed to taking unpaid time off;

  • Be open with your employer – if you need a more permanent arrangement to spend time with your child/ren consider making a flexible working request;

  • It is never acceptable for your employer to punish you for taking time off to care for your child/ren in an emergency;

  • Make sure you are clear on your employer’s policies with regards to family friendly rights;

  • Litigation should be the last resort, so try and sort out any issues directly with your employer first or take professional legal advice on your options.

If you have any questions about your obligations as an employer, or are concerned about an issue at work, please contact Gelbergs’ Employment Team on 0207 226 0570 or email

This blog is for information purposes only and is not a definitive statement of law. It is correct as of the publishing date, but may become out of date as the law changes. You should always seek professional legal advice about your particular circumstances.