Blogging Against Disablism Day – 1 May 2017
Published: 8 May 2017
Parents of Disabled Children in the Workplace
Our Disability Adviser, Janet Mearns, explores some of the employment issues facing parents of disabled children.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.
Disabled people want to do paid work and so do the parents of disabled children. Paid work is a common aspiration, not only for financial reasons.
Over 20 years ago I started this job at Working Families, advising parents of disabled children about their rights in the workplace. I see unnecessary obstacles put in parents’ way. When I started there were few rights and I found myself saying, ‘You must appeal to your employer’s better nature.’ Gradually, change has crept in. Every employed person now has the right to Emergency Leave for Dependants. All right it’s unpaid and it is limited, but from the beginning it included the breakdown of usual care arrangements. Parents have 18 weeks of unpaid Parental Leave for each child to take before the child is 18. Perhaps the most used right is the so-called ‘Right to Request Flexible Working’ – a right to ask, but not get, shorter or different hours or, perhaps, do some work from home. It all helps the balancing act for parents who have to take children to hospital appointments or whose daily routine is subject to the whim of the local authority’s transport system.
Working Families is campaigning for ‘adjustment leave’ when a child is diagnosed and for paid time-off for children’s appointments (are they all necessary?) These will the next steps to levelling the playing field. Can it really be so difficult for local authorities to organise sufficient, appropriate childcare? Should anybody be expected to be paying over the odds?
Our politicians are keen on criticising those not contributing to the economy. Perhaps they could see their way to clearing the path for those who want to join in but find employers’ attitudes and policies don’t help. Nobody has to be available for work 24/7. If disabled children aren’t welcome at an after school club, there is something wrong.
Over the years I’ve been informed by people who should know better, ‘Mothers of disabled children can’t/don’t want to work.’ Some don’t, but paid work should be an option that’s open to all.
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