Q: I have just had to take time off work to look after my children because of the teachers’ strike. What with the train strikes as well, if I’m not careful I won’t have any annual leave left to take for a family holiday. What exactly are my rights regarding things like this?
A: When you are forced to take time off work because of a school closure or because your normal childcare arrangements are disrupted due to an emergency situation, you have a statutory right to take unpaid time off to look after your children. Further, there is no limit to how much time you take off, provided you can prove your need, and it is a ‘reasonable’ amount. If your employer objects they must tell you why. If they refuse you can raise a formal internal grievance.
A key issue may be whether you can afford to take time off and not get paid. It is therefore worth checking whether there is a specific clause in your employment contract about taking leave for emergencies. In some cases, employers make an allowance for some paid leave for emergencies, but even then it would depend on whether your employer considered absence due to strike action to be an emergency.
If you need to take time off due to a childcare emergency, whether that is paid or unpaid time off, you should put the request in writing to your employer as early as possible. State why you cannot get alternative childcare cover and, if possible, suggest options to offset the time you are taking off; for example, you could suggest working from home or doing overtime in lieu.
It is worth remembering that if your children get free school meals, the school must continue to provide support in the form of a food parcel or money to cover food costs if the school is closed due to strike action.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website www.ghplegal.com and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194