Summer holidays and childcare – your duties as a small business owner

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Summer holidays and childcare

As the schools start shutting for the summer, parents across the country will start 6 weeks of navigating childcare and work. It’s a stressful time for parents and employers alike, especially those working within small businesses where team numbers are limited.

Summer holidays and childcare – your duties as a small business owner

As the schools start shutting for the summer, parents across the country will start 6 weeks of navigating childcare and work. It’s a stressful time for parents and employers alike, especially those working within small businesses where team numbers are limited.

Here, 1st Formations look at your duties as a small business owner when it comes to your employees, childcare, and the summer holidays. Let’s get started.

Leave: The statutory duties of an employer

As a business owner, there is no statutory requirement for you to treat the summer holidays differently from any other time of the year. You are within your rights to accept and refuse leave requests, in accordance with your own leave notice period policies, as you see fit.

Having said that, you have a number of legal duties related to leave. Below are the types of leave that you must give and how they could be relevant to the summer holidays and childcare.

The statutory duties of an employer

1. Annual leave

You must provide each ‘worker’ in your company with a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave every year (this is the equivalent of 28 days).

This type of leave will be the obvious first port of call for any team members looking to take time off during the school holidays to look after their children.

Each business will have different requirements regarding how many team members must be working at any one time, so if you are operating with a small team, you should remind all staff that they should book their time off as soon as possible. You can then address each leave request on a case-by-case basis.

In the event that you do need to refuse any requests, this at least gives the employee ample time to arrange alternative childcare.

2. Unpaid parental leave

Employees with children are legally permitted to have up to 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child a year if they wish (they are entitled to 18 weeks of leave for every child they have, and this carries across jobs, with 4 weeks being the maximum allowed per year).

This is a potential childcare solution for an employee who doesn’t want to use their annual leave (or is already running low on that).

As an employer, you cannot refuse parental leave, but if the employee’s absence is going to cause significant disruption to your business, you can postpone it. In this event, you will need to notify the employee within 7 days of them making the request, provide a reason for the postponement, and give suitable dates that they can take off.

3. Time off for family and dependants

You must provide employees with a reasonable amount of time off to deal with family and dependent emergencies (this can be paid or unpaid, it’s up to you, but should be set out in your company’s internal handbook).

This shouldn’t be used for any planned event (such as a hospital appointment), but could be used in the event of pre-arranged childcare falling through at the last minute. In an event such as this, you should allow the employee enough time off to find a suitable arrangement.

There’s no set limit on how many times an employee can take a family/dependant day. However, if you do find that this is impacting their work, you can discuss this with them.

4. Other leave

You must also provide leave related to maternity, paternity and bereavement, although this isn’t generally relevant to summer holidays and childcare.

Time off for family and dependants

How you can help your team with childcare (throughout the year)

Other than providing them with the necessary time off, there are a number of ways that you can alleviate childcare pressures on your team, such as offering:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Compressed hours
  • Shorter working weeks
  • Working from home opportunities

You could even look into providing actual childcare solutions such as:

  • Childcare vouchers
  • An arrangement with a childcare facility
  • A workplace nursery (for when your business grows)

Thanks for reading

As someone who’s looking to maintain a happy workforce at the same time as running a successful business, you will have some juggling to do. There will be times when you need to show some flexibility with leave (for all members of staff – not just those with children). Likewise, there will be instances when you need to put your foot down and refuse a leave request. It’s all about striking the right balance.