For many working parents, balancing children and a career can be challenging at the best of times, however the prospect of juggling both in the holidays can seem even more daunting.
The children have inevitably looked forward to the time off and the school holidays appear to present the perfect opportunity to unwind and spend quality time as a family. Unfortunately for a working parent, having to arrange a complex plethora of childcare options, time off work and keep the children occupied can be an insurmountable task.
Many working parents opt to take holiday themselves during the period, however arranging and booking holiday time from work can prove tricky as most working parents will also be vying for the opportunity to spend the precious time with their own children.
In addition, although some employers such as Woodfines offer a generous holiday entitlement, the statutory period of 28 days is simply not enough to cover all of the school holidays which amount to roughly 13 weeks combined.
There is the option of working part time which can fit in well with holidays. Unfortunately this limits earning capacity and can put a strain on a family’s finances.
Private holiday clubs, nannies and childminder’s fees can be expensive, especially if you have more than one child and outings with the children soon add up. Well planned craft and cooking projects at home can provide entertainment for the children and parks and museums should be considered as a cheap alternative to expensive days out.
Finances can be stretched during the holidays and it may be helpful to give each child a budget which they have to stick to. This allows them to make their own choices.
Support from family, especially grandparents is an invaluable asset as it can bridge the gap between the time a parent can take as holiday and the budget that can be stretched to accommodate traditional childcare. Friends with children of a similar age may also be able to lend a hand as parents may be able to swap children for a day, allowing the children to have time with their friends.
Planning is essential in managing expectations and thereby avoiding disappointment as each member of the family may have a different idea of what they would like to achieve from the holiday period.
Trying to plan activities for every moment can be stressful, although a child’s imagination can be a wonderful thing and the occasional day at home can allow for them to come up with ideas and put these ideas into action.
If childcare arrangements fall through at the last minute, there are statutory mechanisms to assist. All employees have the right to emergency unpaid leave if their child is unwell or childcare arrangements fall through unexpectedly. The right extends to reasonable time off work in order to deal with unexpected situations affecting their dependants and to put other arrangements in place. In order to qualify for this entitlement, the employee must let their employer know the reason for their absence as soon as is possible and should only take time off which is necessary.
In addition to this right, if a parent has been an employee for at least 26 weeks they have the right to request flexible working hours and/or the opportunity to work from home. An employer has a duty to seriously consider the request and must reach a decision within three months. An employer can only deny the opportunity to work flexibly if there is a statutory business reason for doing so.
School holidays for single parents require an even greater level of planning in order to be managed successfully. There may also be additional stresses brought about by the breakdown of the relationship which can make sharing of the children between each of their parents an emotionally charged experience.
It can be helpful to mark out the school holiday dates in advance and speak with employers, family and ex-partners to establish how many days of annual leave are required and how much childcare is needed. Both parents may then be able to spread their days off throughout the period so each is able to spend time with the children. Quality is better than quantity.
It is important that any holiday arrangements are made in the best interests of the child and is not an exercise in outdoing the other parent. Each parent should try to be flexible, respect the time the other parent has with the children and be prepared to compromise.
If a parent intends to take the children abroad, this should be agreed by all people with Parental Responsibility before flights and accommodation are booked. Full details of any travel plans should be communicated and the written consent of the other parent sought in good time to avoid any last minute disappointment and wasted expenditure.
If a parent is unable to gain the appropriate consent from the other parent they may be able to seek permission from the court to allow to them to remove the children for a temporary period. Any application to court should be considered as a last resort and only once all other efforts have been explored and exhausted.
The other parent should be provided with details of where the children will be on holiday and the children should be encouraged to stay in touch while they are away.
When the children finally go on holiday, a parent should make the most of the break. It is their holiday too and an opportunity of catching up with friends or enjoying a little time for themselves.