School closures: what employees and employers need to know


Beginning this week schools across the UK will be closed to the vast majority children in a further escalation of government measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. The decision will have a massive impact on working parents, both employers and employees. Here is what you need to know.

Legal rights for parents and paid leave

Working parents may take two types of leave, both of which are unpaid, but can’t be refused, according to the UK government website.

Emergency dependants leave can be taken at any time without needing to give notice and is for a period of between several hours and several days.

Working parents and guardians are also entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child in their care.

However, these are just the basic legal rights. You may have, as part of your contract with your employee or employer, a better package agreed for parental leave. So check the terms and conditions.

Many businesses are introducing flexible working arrangements wherever possible to support employees with caring responsibilities, but cash flow issues mean many businesses are having to make tough choices.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development explains, “Those that are able to work from home should continue to do so as far as they can. However, this is an exceptional circumstance. Employers must accept that there will be disruption and that working parents will struggle to be as productive as normal.”

“Employers need to make allowances for this and take a flexible approach, especially for people with younger children who will inevitably need more care. With many schools looking at remote teaching, parents will have to juggle their work with helping their children to access school activities. There may be limited space and limited equipment to manage both parents and children working from home each day. There will be disruption.”

“Employees should speak to their line managers and HR teams to understand how they can best balance family and work commitments, especially as this stands to be for a prolonged period of time,” added Cheese.

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