Parents are being warned not to fall foul of work, if their children`s school is closed due to the recent heavy snowfall.

The law allows staff to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to take action which is “necessary” to deal with sudden and unexpected events involving their children (or other dependants).

Problems with childcare due to the bad weather/ school closure is likely to fall into this category under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Amanda Isherwood of Gorvins solicitors has however commented, “parents will be expected to look for alternative childcare arrangements, especially if they have had more than a couple of days off work or had prior notice that there may be an issue. If they fail to do so, whether the time off is “necessary” may well be questioned by their employer.”

It is important that parents tell their employers as soon as possible that they will be absent from work, the reason, and the likely duration of their absence.

Of course, while some employers may be flexible and allow parents time off on full pay in these circumstances, others, who depend on staff to keep their businesses functioning, may be more likely to operate strict compliance with the letter of the law.

Hundreds of schools have been forced to close as “the beast from the east” brings heavy snow and freezing temperatures to the UK. The ultimate decision to shut a school is made by the headteacher, who has to assess a number of factors before closing the doors for the day.

The most important thing is for parents not to take advantage of the situation, only take time off if it is really an emergency and inform their employer that they need to take time off as soon as possible.

If parents do need to exercise their right to take a reasonable amount of time off to care for their children and are treated detrimentally as a result, or even dismissed, they should seek legal advice as soon as possible as they may be able to make a complaint to the employment tribunal.

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