WHAT ARE YOUR EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS IF YOU NEED TO TAKE TIME OFF TO LOOK AFTER YOUR CHILDREN DURING THE PLANNED STRIKES BY TEACHERS?
Teachers at thousands of UK schools plan to strike between February 1st and April 21, 2023.
Here are your rights as an employee if your child’s school closes due to strike action:
You do have the right to take time off for emergency childcare
If your child's school is closed, or your normal childcare arrangements are disrupted due to an emergency situation, you have a statutory right as an employee to take unpaid time off to look after your child.
There are no time limits on how much time you can take off, but it should be a "reasonable" amount and employers should try to be flexible.
If an employer refuses your request, it must justify the reasons why, according to senior associate solicitor Ryan Bradshaw at law firm Leigh Day.
If your employer initially refuses your request, you can raise an internal grievance.
Whether you get paid to take time off work is down to your employer
You should check if your employer has a specific policy in your contract which allows paid leave for emergencies. There are no guarantees though, and Mr Bradshaw warns that you will also need to check whether your employer deems strike action to be an emergency. Most strike action is announced in advance and your employer may therefore expect you to have other arrangements already in place.
If you are planning on taking time off, tell your employer as soon as possible
If you are planning on requesting unpaid or paid leave due to a childcare emergency, you should put this in writing to your employer as soon as possible. Set out why you haven't been able to make alternative childcare arrangements and what arrangements could be made to mitigate your time off work.
Other options to consider include asking to take the time off under your paid annual holiday allowance. Alternatively, ask your employer if there are other arrangements it can put in place, such as enabling you to work from home or swap shifts.
If you're not employed, you aren't entitled to time off for emergencies
If you're not an 'employee', and are instead classed as a 'worker' under UK law, you won't be entitled to time off for emergencies. You're typically classed as worker rather than an employee if your contract with the business uses terms including ‘casual’, ‘freelance’, ‘zero hours’, ‘as required’ or something similar.
See Gov.uk for full details on what it means to be a worker and your rights.
If your child gets free school meals, these should still be provided
If your child receives free school meals and can't go into school due to strike action, the school must continue to provide support - whether that's in the form of a food parcel or money to cover food costs.
If you haven't heard anything from your child's school about school meals on strike days, make sure you contact them to find out what arrangements are being put in place.
Breakfast and afterschool clubs may also still be open, even if the main school isn't - although it's best to check.
Source: moneysavingexpert.com January 2023
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