Dangerous concrete has shut my child's school - can I get paid time off work?

Some schools have deferred to online learning. Credit: PA

More than 100 schools in England have been told to fully or partially close due to having buildings which contain an unsafe concrete.

The government has so far refused to publish a full list of the 104 affected schools, which were built using a potentially dangerous, lightweight, building material known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

Some schools have deferred to online learning for specific year groups, while others have shut entirely.

The announcement could have a wider impact on working parents - those who have confirmation their child's school is shut, and even those who have not heard anything but might want to keep their children home over safety fears.

So what are your rights?

Can you take time off work if your child's school is closed?

The short answer is yes.

You are entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency. This is called "dependant leave", according to Citizens Advice.

Your employer can't refuse dependant leave if you have no other option - such as childcare arrangements failing

Speaking to ITV News, Russell Dann, a senior associate at workplace law specialists Doyle Clayton, said: "Employed parents have the statutory right to reasonable unpaid time off to arrange care for dependants when there has been an unexpected breakdown of childcare arrangements, and the leave is necessary.

"This right only applies to employees - irrespective of their length of service, or whether they work full-time or part-time or are employed on a permanent, temporary, or fixed-term basis; it does not apply to other workers or the self-employed.

"The amount of time off that the employee can take is limited to the amount of time which is necessary to deal with the “crisis”.

"Employees should give their employers notice of the reason for the absence as soon as reasonably practicable and let them know how long they expect to be away from work."

Those who have been with an employer for at least a year also have the right to 18 weeks' parental leave before the child's 18th birthday.

However, Mr Dann explained the usual notice period to exercise parental leave is 21 days - and thus may not be helpful in this scenario.

Will you get paid for taking time off?

In both dependant and parental leave cases you won't be paid for your time off, unless your contract of employment says so.

You might be able to negotiate a holiday if you still want to be paid but that is down to employee discretion.

But crucially, you don’t have to make up the missed time later on.

Are there alternatives if you're worried about your child's safety in their school?

Parents can opt to take their children out of school if they are worried about the dangerous buildings, but they will have to do homeschooling.

Senior associate, Amara Ahmad at Doyle Clayton said this was the only alternative for concerned parents, but it will mean their children taken off the school's roll.

Doing this is a very long-term decision and your child would no longer have a place at that school (or any other).

There is no guarantee children would be able to return to their former school when safety concerns are fixed.

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