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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Benefits and help for parents going back to work

If you are going back to work and you've got children, you can get financial and practical help with childcare. From tax credits to flexible working arrangements, there's lots of support available to make your life easier.

Early years education

All three and four year olds are entitled to up to five two-and-a-half hour daily sessions a week, for three terms each year, with a 'registered provider' such as a school, nursery or playgroup.

Some large employers provide registered early years education at the workplace. You can also use a registered childminder if they're part of an approved childminding network.

Tax credits

Nine out of ten families with children qualify for tax credits, but you don't need to have children to claim. You may also qualify if you are working and on a low income.

Child Tax Credit

If you're responsible for at least one child or young person, you may qualify for Child Tax Credit.

Working Tax Credit

If you're working and you're on a low income, you may be able to get Working Tax Credit.

Working Tax Credit includes a specific element to support the cost of registered childcare for working parents. The childcare element can help with up to 70 per cent of your eligible childcare costs.

There are limits on the weekly costs you can claim. If you pay childcare for:

  • one child, the maximum you can claim is £175 a week
  • two or more children, the maximum is £300 a week

Time off and flexible working

Time off ('parental leave')

If you're a working parent, you can take up to 13 weeks' parental leave for each child until their fifth birthday (you get more than this if you have a disabled child). Your employer doesn't have to pay you when you take this leave, but they might as part of your employment package. To be entitled to this time off you must:

  • have parental responsibility for the child
  • have worked for your employer for at least one year before you take it
  • give your employer at least 21 days' notice - and the dates when your leave will start and finish

You normally have to take parental leave in blocks of one week or more, up to a maximum of four weeks a year for each child. But your employer may let you take parental leave in shorter blocks. If your child is entitled to Disability Living Allowance then you can take your leave a day at a time if you want.

If your employer thinks your absence would disrupt the business then they can usually postpone your leave for up to six months after the date you asked for.

Flexible working

Flexible working lets you ask your employer for a new working pattern to help you care for your child. You have a right to request a flexible working pattern if you've got a child aged 16 or under, or a disabled child under 18. Your employer has to consider your request seriously.

To have the right to ask for flexible working, you must:

  • have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • be the child's mother, father, adopter, legal guardian or foster parent - or be the partner of one of these
  • have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • be making the application so that you'll be able to care for the child

You'll need to fill in an application form when you apply for flexible working. You can only make one application a year.

Job Grant

Job Grant is a one-off tax free payment you may get when you start working for at least 16 hours a week and stop getting benefits. You may be entitled to Job Grant if you start work for at least 16 hours a week, you do not have a partner working 16 hours or more per week and you expect your work to last for at least five weeks. You must also have been claiming one of the following benefits for at least 26 weeks before starting your new job:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Jobcentre Plus/New Deal Allowance payments where the allowance is based on Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Employment Zone payments where the allowance is based on Jobseeker's Allowance

You can find out more on Job Grant by following the link below:

How child maintenance affects your benefits

Since 12 April 2010, you can keep all of the maintenance that you are paid without it affecting your benefit entitlement. However, you must continue to tell Jobcentre Plus about any maintenance payments you get.

Find out more about maintenance and benefits on the Child Maintenance Options website.

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