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Balancing work and family life can be stressful.
Despite a wave of policies over the years to ensure that parents are given more support, workers can still find themselves battling with employers in areas from shared parental leave to flexible working.
Although approaching your employer to ask for more better working conditions can feel intimidating, there are steps you can take to make it easier.
Do your homework
If you’re going to bring up a potential change to your working pattern or perhaps fight against discrimination, it’s always best to be prepared.
“Before you have a chat with your boss, plan and anticipate what problems you may encounter and any resistance to your discussion or request and be ready with solutions, any reasonable concessions and evidence to counter objections,” says Emily Pritty, head of legal advice service at UK work-life balance charity Working Families.
She advises workers to put themselves in their employer’s shoes, to be solution-focused and approach any discussion with an open and positive manner. “You may want to come up with proposals for any difficulties your employer may face.”
Also make sure you’ve read your employer’s HR policy. “The company should have polices regarding all types of leave as well as an anti-discrimination or equality opportunities policy so look out for these if you are raising a concern,” says Jodie Hill, managing director and solicitor at UK-based Thrive Law.
Brush up on where you stand in the eyes of the law
Before you approach your boss you should also brush up on the laws in your country in case your employer is acting unlawfully.
“For example, the right to time off to deal with emergencies involving dependants applies across the UK but may not apply outside of Europe,” says Kate Palmer, director of HR advice and consultancy at global employment law consultancy Peninsula.
While Unicef recommends countries provide six months of statutory paid leave for parents, unfortunately many countries haven’t made this law. The US, for example, doesn’t offer new parents any kind of guaranteed paid leave, although certain employees can take unpaid leave.
It’s also worth seeking further advice from third-party organizations.
For example, those based in England, Scotland and Wales can contact ACAS, employees in Northern Ireland can look to the Labour Relations Agency, and in the Republic of Ireland, they should try the Workplace Relations Commission.
“These bodies can advise employees if they are being denied their rights and help them to structure arguments that they can put to company management,” says Palmer.
If your colleagues have similar gripes, do see if you can team up and challenge your boss.
“Collective pressure for flexibility and change in the workplace may encourage employers to see this is not a one-off concern, especially if seeking to improve enhanced pay and benefits, beyond what is provided by law,” says Pritty.
Companies should also be given the opportunity to respond to these concerns. “It may be that policies need evaluating, or the actions of a particular manager should be investigated,” says Palmer.
If your employer refuses to budge
If informal discussions haven’t worked, the next stage is to consider raising a formal written grievance or appeal your employer’s decision.
Check out any third-party organization’s advice. In the UK, that might involve ACAS’s code of guidance on disciplinary and grievance procedures. “This sets out good practice guidelines for the handling of disciplinary and grievance issues in employment,” advises Pritty.
Finally if you’re still finding no joy, the next course is legal action. “If the company is not adhering to statutory minimum legal requirements, staff may be able to bring claims against it,” says Pritty.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: This incredible animation shows how deep the ocean really is