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Low-paid work: changes needed


TUC, report, young parents, work, low-paid, zero hours, childcare, rightsLow-paid parents say that today’s irregular hours made it harder to manage work and childcare.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of low-paid young mums and dads are struggling to manage work and childcare, a new TUC report revealed last week.

And more than two in five (42 per cent) said they felt penalised at work when they asked for flexibility – they told the TUC they have subsequently been given fewer hours, worse shifts or even losing their job.

The study of more than 1,000 low-paid mums and dads is part of the TUC’s new campaign for better jobs for mums and dads.

A survey and focus groups with low-paid parents found that today’s irregular hours were to blame for low-paid parents finding it harder to manage work and childcare.

And many feel at the mercy of indifferent employers who can change their working hours on a whim.

One in four (26 per cent) parents told the TUC they had had their shifts changed at short notice, and one in five (19 per cent) had been given their rota less than a week in advance, making planning childcare very difficult.

In addition, more than half (58 per cent) of mums and dads working in low-paid sectors like retail, hospitality and social care, said that they didn’t know what rights at work they were entitled to.

Nearly two in three (63 per cent) were not aware of their right to unpaid parental leave.

As a result, nearly half (49 per cent) were not using one or more of their legal rights to time off.

That meant they ended up taking sick leave or holiday to cover childcare; nearly one in three (29 per cent) had resorted to taking annual leave to cover their child being sick in the last year.

And some were even prevented from leaving to look after their children in an emergency.

These working parents felt that “flexible working” and “work-life balance” didn’t apply to workers like them.

The TUC is calling for all workers – including mums and dads – to have the right to be notified of their shifts one month in advance.

That will mean working parents can plan childcare commitments and do their jobs.

And the TUC is campaigning for all working parents – including zero-hours contracts workers, agency workers and those in casual work – to have the same parents’ rights, from day one in their jobs.

Currently these rights are only available to workers with “employee” status – meaning 1.5 million workers won’t have access to these rights if they become parents.

There is a real lack of awareness of key employment rights which could help young working parents. For example, 63 per cent of young mums and dads are not aware of the right to unpaid parental leave.

Parents also reported that the existing rights could be improved.

The TUC has made 16 recommendations for the government following this extensive research, including:

1 – Rights for all: All working parents – including zero-hours contracts workers, agency workers and those in casual work – should have access to the same rights, from day one in their jobs.

This includes all family friendly rights, which are often only available to “employees”.

2 – Notice of working hours: All workers should be given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance.

3 – Information about rights: All workers should receive information about their workplace rights, including the rights which will help them manage their childcare needs.

4 – Parental leave and time off for dependants should be paid. It is not affordable for many young parents to take time off unpaid.

5 – The government should start by introducing a period of 5 days paid parental leave. It should be paid at least at the rate of the relevant National Minimum Wage rate.

The TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door.

“But it’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat, and you never work the same weekly hours twice.

“Many parents fear losing shifts, taking unpaid leave or being viewed badly at work if they need time off to look after their kids.

“And it is shocking that some mums and dads are being stopped from taking their children to hospital when they are sick.

“All workers should be given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance.

“Everyone at work should get the same parents’ rights from day one – and everyone should be given written information about these rights.

“My advice to working dads and mums is this: join a union today. Your union will make sure you get your legal rights to time off to look after your kids.”

To read the full report, click here.

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