For children, being off school because of snow can cause lots of excitement and fun, but it is also a trigger for chaos when it comes to juggling kids off school and taking emergency leave from work.
It is not uncommon for schools to close due to the snow, when many offices and workplaces remain open. So when there is no one available to look after children on a snowy day, there is often no choice for a parent but to take emergency leave and stay off work. Sarah Calderwood, employment specialist at Slater Heelis (www.slaterheelis.co.uk/employment) sets the record straight on your rights to take emergency leave during these times.
Obviously, when parents take emergency leave, it is not good news for employers. It may not be good news for parents either – but what are employees’ rights in extreme weather conditions?
Firstly, it is important to note that employers are not legally obliged to pay employees who cannot come into work due to the weather or emergency childcare issues, however, this is at the discretion of the company.
You have a right to take emergency leave
If unable to come into work due to a sudden lack of childcare, a parent is legally entitled to take the day off. This is often known as ‘emergency leave‘. Therefore, parents should not face any detriment should they be obliged to stay home to look after children due to school closures .
The same applies if a child was off school sick and no other childcare was available. Remember though that the right to take time off applies to emergencies only. You are expected to arrange alternative childcare as soon as possible whether that is through relatives or paid childcare. For example, if a school was closed for a week you would have to take action to find alternative childcare arrangements and be able to show your employer what attempts you have made to ensure you can attend work.
Your employer can discipline you for abusing emergency leave
If your employer believes that you have not taken sufficient action to find alternative childcare arrangements then they may discipline you for abusing the right to emergency leave.
If parents are unable to get to work because of icy roads or for other transport reasons, then this does not fall under the right to ‘emergency leave‘. In these cases an employer may suggest that they make up the time at a later date, work from home or take the day off as annual leave. This will also be at the company’s discretion, unless stated in an employee’s contract.