Time off work for kinship carers

Advice on employment rights for kinship carers who need time off work, including flexible working, time for dependants and parental leave.

It can be hard to balance being a kinship carer when you also have a job, which is why it is a good idea to learn about and understand your employment rights.

It will depend on the type of kinship care arrangement you have, but there may be several organisations involved with the child’s care. You may have appointments to attend, visits to school or to health professionals, and forms to complete.

As an employee, you have the right to ask your employer for time off work to meet your caring responsibilities. As a kinship carer, in many cases you have the same rights as the child’s parents when asking for time away from your job.

The type of time off work you can ask for will depend on what kinship care arrangement you have in place for a child’s care.

Learn about the types of kinship care

Parental leave

Parental leave is a legal right to take unpaid time off work to look after a child. That may include helping a child settle into a new caring arrangement or looking for a new school.

You must have worked for your employer for at least one year and have parental responsibility for a child under 18 years old. This rules also apply if you are a kinship carer with a child arrangements order or special guardianship order.

If you are a family and friends foster carer or informal kinship carer, you do not have the right to parental leave as you do not have parental responsibility.

If you qualify, you are allowed up to 18 weeks’ parental leave for each child. You can take a maximum of 4 weeks in one year for each qualifying child. Some employers may offer more parental leave, so check your employment contract for more information.

Your job and any employment rights are protected while you are on parental leave.

Unpaid parental leave (GOV.UK)

Time off for dependants

As an employed kinship carer, you have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies that involve the child you care for. It does not matter how long you have been working for your employer and it applies to both child and adult care responsibilities.

You must let your employer know what is happening and get back to work as soon as you can. Your employer doesn’thave to pay you for taking time off for dependants, but they may choose to. Check your employment contract or staff handbook to see if there is a policy that explains how time off for dependants works for your employer.

Some employers do allow a number of days per year as carers’ leave, but they do not have to pay you for this time unless it is in your contract.

Time off for dependants (GOV.UK)

Flexible working

Flexible working is where the time you work is adapted to benefit both you and your employer. This may include part-time, flexitime, compressed hours, staggered hours, term-time only, job sharing or working from home.

Every employee has the right to request flexible working from their employer, whether they have caring responsibilities or not. Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be able to ask for flexible working.

Your employer will decide whether to accept your flexible working request. They should usually decide within three months of the request.

It is important to understand that a change granted under the right to request flexible working is permanent. Any reduction in hours may have an impact on benefits, so before making any decisions, it’s a good idea to get legal advice.

If you only want a temporary change to your working hours, you should speak to and agree the terms with your employer.

Read ACAS’s guide to flexible working requests

Find out more about flexible working on GOV.UK

Support from Kinship

Here at Kinship, we offer a range of free support for all kinship carers, including workshops, online advice and information, and peer support groups.

Contact our advice service to speak to an adviser or book an appointment.