Whilst the current cold snap is hitting communities across the UK, heavy snow is forcing many schools to close their doors. This may be exciting for school children, but what about childcare? Polly O’Malley, Senior Associate at Stone King, explains parents’ legal rights in the event of their child’s school closing.
Polly, who is based at the national law firm’s office in Leeds, says: “If your child’s school closes unexpectedly, you have the statutory right to take emergency leave to care for dependents. There is no minimum or maximum time laid out by law, but this right is limited to what is considered reasonable in the circumstances. This doesn’t extend to all childcare situations but unforeseen circumstances, like your child’s school closing unexpectedly, would likely qualify. However, this is a right to unpaid leave.
“Your employer may have a policy on emergency leave - many do - and might grant a certain amount of paid leave, but in the absence of a policy or any other contractual right, the default is for this time to be unpaid. Alternatively, your employer may suggest that you take this time as holiday or that you work from home, although most companies don’t consider it ‘acceptable’ to work productively from home if you are also supervising school age children.
“Of course, the best thing for an employer to do is anticipate these situations by having an adverse weather policy and setting out clearly the options. The best thing for you to do as a parent is to check if your company has a policy in place, be aware of your statutory rights and speak to your employer to agree what will work best in your circumstances.”
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