Require employers to offer career breaks for parents with a seriously ill child

My daughter was diagnosed with Leukaemia. I became a full-time nurse overnight. My employer is unable to keep my job open so I have lost my job of 19 years. Employers should be required to grant special breaks for parents in this situation enabling them to return to their jobs afterwards.

This petition closed on 2 Dec 2023 with 102,316 signatures

Reticulating Splines

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Parents shouldn’t face losing their jobs on top of dealing with the possibility of losing their child. I feel this is the responsibility of the Government to protect the parents of seriously ill children, with no choice other than to drop everything to care for their children. Please, this needs to be addressed immediately. I have spoken to so many parents with caring responsibilities that are struggling financially, which then becomes a huge emotional burden and all this could be avoided if there was something in place to help desperate parents. This is URGENT!

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Government Response

Thursday 20th July 2023

The Government understands the difficulties and worry faced by parents of seriously ill children. We have no plans to introduce a right to take a career break in these circumstances.

The Government understands the difficulties, worry and challenges faced by parents with seriously ill children. While the Government is very sympathetic, it is not practical to provide a specific right to take time away from work to cover every challenging situation an employee may face.

Many employers are already very supportive when people find themselves in these situations,

The Government currently has no plans to introduce a specific right to take a career break for parents with seriously ill children.

However, the Government is supporting legislation which will provide support for parents, including those caring for ill children or facing other difficult circumstances.

The Government supported the Neonatal Care (leave and pay) Act 2023. Neonatal Leave and Pay will apply to parents of babies who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days, and who have a continuous stay in hospital of seven full days or more. Eligible employed parents will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave on top of their other parental entitlements such as Maternity and Paternity Leave. Neonatal Leave will be a ‘day one’ right meaning that it will be available to an employee from their first day in a new job. The Act received Royal Assent on the 24 May 2023. It will provide additional support to parents of seriously ill babies who require neonatal care.

The Government supported the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act. This will increase the number of requests for flexible working an employee can make in a year, reduce the time an employer has to administer a request and require an employer to consult with the employee if they are going to reject the request. The Government has also committed to take forward regulations to make the right to request flexible working apply from the first day of employment – bringing an estimated additional 2.2 million people into scope. Flexible working – whether it relates to the hours, timing or place of work – can be an important way for individuals to work in a way that meets both their personal needs, and those of their employer. For parents of seriously ill children, better access to flexible working arrangements may make it easier for them to manage that situation while remaining in work. We recognise that there is no ‘one size-fits-all’ approach to flexible working arrangements and that the extent to which flexible working is suitable for individuals will depend on personal and organisational circumstances. It is therefore important that any such arrangements are discussed between employers and employees.

The Government supported the Carer’s Leave Act 2023. This Act will create a new entitlement to carer’s leave from an employee’s first day of work. It will be available to all employees who are providing care for a dependant with a long-term care need. Eligible employees will be entitled to one week of unpaid leave per year, which will be available to take flexibly in individual or half days. Whilst not being a right to a career break, Carer’s Leave could provide parents of seriously ill children with more flexibility to be away from work and make the difficult situation they are facing a little easier.

The Government believes this is a comprehensive package of new legislation which will greatly help people in a range of circumstances, including those parents of seriously ill children. It also respects the needs of employers and ensures the burdens on them are the minimum necessary.

In addition to these new rights, parents are also already entitled to emergency time off for dependents and unpaid parental leave up to their child’s 18th birthday.

Nonetheless, we would encourage employers to go further and consider what compassionate leave policies, flexible working arrangements and supportive work environment they may be able to offer beyond that required by legislation alone. The Government expects employers to treat their staff well and fairly.

Department for Business and Trade

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Reticulating Splines