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Employment law for employees & Employment law for employers

Coronavirus school closures – Should you consider Parental Leave?

Options for parents when Working from home may no longer be viable.

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The government has announced that from Friday 20 March 2020 all schools, colleges and nurseries in the UK will be shut indefinitely (except for a skeleton attendance of vulnerable children and children of keyworkers).

Working from home may no longer be viable if parents, particularly those of young children, cannot feasibly continue working whilst simultaneously caring for their children. This inevitably raises anxiety about job security. Hopefully, the government and employers will be mindful of this and want to support the workforce financially and emotionally as far as possible.

One answer to this dilemma, at least in the short-term, may be parental leave.

Parental leave is a statutory right available to anyone (whether the parent or not) who has parental responsibility for a child.

It allows each employee to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave per child to care for them. Whilst the government has not listed school closures as a scenario where parental leave is applicable, our view is that it would fit the definition.

There are a few key points to bear in mind with parental leave:

  1. The entitlement is 18 weeks per child. If an employee has, say, three children, they are entitled to a total of 54 weeks parental leave.
  2. Parental leave can be taken at any time before a child’s 18th birthday.
  3. Provisions relating to pay and benefits are suspended during parental leave, but other contractual terms continue to apply.
  4. Generally, the employee has the right to return to the same job in which they were employed if they take continuous leave for four weeks or less. If leave extends past four weeks then they have the right to return to the same job, or a suitable alternative position.
  5. An employer has scope to provide an enhanced parental leave scheme if they so wish and to pay an employee a proportion of their salary during leave.

Parental leave may be worth considering if its financially viable as it protects an employee’s job and allows them the opportunity to care for their family.

If you want to discuss this or anything else related to the current situation, please get in touch with any member of the Collyer Bristow Employment team.

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Tania Goodman

Partner - Head of Employment

tania.goodman@collyerbristow.com