Workplace ‘failing parents of disabled children’


Parents of disabled children are still being forced to give up work because of lack of flexibility, a report by Working Families has said.

The charity found that 79% of those not in work felt they had no choice but to give up work at or soon after the diagnosis of their child. In total, 77% of out of work parents agreed that finding a job with the right number of hours was a major barrier to returning to work and 87% said finding a job with the right pattern of work was also a major barrier.

The survey of over 900 parents also found that two thirds of parents in work had declined promotion or accepted demotion to balance care and work responsibilities.

Working Families said while there remains an acute shortage of quality, part-time or otherwise flexible vacancies, especially at intermediate level, parents of disabled children will struggle to return or remain in employment. It added that periods of adjustment leave would allow many parents to stay in the workforce – something the majority want or need to do.

Ahead of the general election in May, it is calling for the establishment of a new statutory right to six-week adjustment leave to enable families to deal with short-term crises or adapt to changes in their caring responsibilities without giving up work. Cost analysis carried out by consultancy Oliver Wyman shows that the introduction of a legal right to adjustment leave for the parents of disabled children could result in a potential annual net gain to the economy of up to £500 million.

In addition, the charity repeated its call for employers to take a ‘flexible by default’ approach to job design and recruitment.

Working Families chief executive Sarah Jackson said: “More needs to be done to support the parents of disabled children to either stay in work or to re-enter the workforce. We have shown that the introduction of a legal right to paid adjustment leave on or soon after diagnosis of a child’s disability or special need would have a positive outcome not only on the family’s economic future but on the state’s as a whole.”

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