The Worker: `The proposals just don't go far enough'

Employment: Entitlement to 13 weeks' unpaid leave attacked as perk only for better off and disruptive to small firms
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The Independent Online
JOY WINDSOR is the same as thousands of mothers who work; a consummate juggler.

She is an English teacher at a secondary school in the Meon Valley, Hampshire. Unlike other jobs, her annual leave and time off are strictly fixed according to the academic year. If there is a domestic crisis, it is not always possible to take a "flexi-day" or time off in lieu. The class of 30 children must be taught by someone.

In the past, in common with many working parents, she relied on a network of child- minders, relatives and flexible working by her husband, Peter, in an attempt to look after her children, Ellie and Richard. Raising a family has meant both adults working full-time to support them.

Child-minding fees were such that they accounted for almost a quarter of Mrs Windsor's income. At one point, she went part-time as a teacher as the best way to reduce child-minding costs.

At Swanmore Secondary School, Mrs Windsor said she has a flexible headteacher. But her friends have admitted to taking time off sick to deal with a problem at home rather than ask work for special leave.

"It's a bit of a lottery for people and is usually at the whim of someone's boss," she said "and a negative from the boss means you have to frantically ring round relatives or friends and rope them in when the problem could be simply solved by unpaid leave.

"But I think the Government's current proposals do not go far enough in terms of the reality for most parents.

"The parental leave should be extended to included all primary school age children because that is the time when kids start falling off bikes, out of trees and having accidents and when leave of this kind would be really useful."