Two in five low-paid parents actually end up worse off after asking for flexible working arrangements, new research shows.

A poll of more than 1,000 young mums and dads by the TUC found that almost half (47%) struggle to manage work and childcare.

But asking their employers for help often doesn’t have the desired effect, with 42% saying they felt penalised at work when they asked for flexibility.

Parents told they TUC they had been given fewer hours, worse shifts and even lost their job.

The TUC said irregular hours are partly to blame for low-paid parents finding it hard to juggle work and childcare.

A quarter (26%) of parents surveyed by the TUC said they’d had shifts changed at short notice. 19% had been given their rota less than a week in advance, making it hard to arrange childcare.

The research also showed that 58% of parents working in low-paid sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care didn’t know what rights at work they are entitled to, while 63% didn’t know about their right to unpaid parental leave.

As a result, 49% of those surveyed weren’t using one or more of their legal rights to time off.

Nearly a third (29%) had taken annual leave to look after a sick child in the past year and some have even been stopped from leaving to look after their children in an emergency.

It’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat

Frances O’Grady, general secretary, TUC
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TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door.

“But it’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat, and you never work the same weekly hours twice.

“Many parents fear losing shifts, taking unpaid leave or being viewed badly at work if they need time off to look after their kids. And it is shocking that some mums and dads are being stopped from taking their children to hospital when they are sick.

“All workers should be given notice of their shifts at least one month in advance. Everyone at work should get the same parents’ rights from day one – and everyone should be given written information about these rights.”

The TUC wants all working parents – including those on zero-hours contracts, agency workers and those in casual work – to have the same rights.

At the moment, only workers with employee status have those rights, leaving some 1.5 million workers without those rights if they become parents.