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It’s your child’s first ever day at school. Can you take time off to be there for them?
The first day of nursery or school is a memorable experience for most parents. Whether that’s because it’s their child’s first time away from their side or they’ve just had to remortgage the house to pay for the multiple sets of uniform, most parents will remember the day for years to come. But should parents be entitled to the day off work on such a momentous occasion in both theirs and their child’s life?
“Where an employee works the standard 9-5, they typically shouldn’t need any time off to take them to school on their first day back if their school is local as most schools tend to start their day between the hours of 08:30 and 09:00. However, if it is the child’s first ever day at school or nursery, schools will sometimes allow parents to stay a little later with the child to help them get settled in. Where this is the case, the employee should seek authority to take the time off from their employer and normally this would be unpaid unless agreed otherwise,” states Liam Grime, Employment Law Consultant at ELAS, a business support services and training firm.
He adds that there is currently a statutory entitlement to ‘parental leave’, which entitles employees with over one year’s continuous employment and parental responsibility up to 18 weeks’ of unpaid leave for any reason associated with their children up until they turn 18. For example, it is typically used to help parents spend more time with their children, to help settle them in to school or look at new schools. The entitlement is intended to be taken in blocks of a week. However where the child is disabled or where the employer agrees, the employee can choose to take it in blocks of days or half-days.
21 days notice must be provided
The employee is also usually required to give 21 days’ notice of their intention to take parental leave, unless the employer agrees otherwise. Grime says: “With this in mind, it could be possible for employees to use parental leave to cover time off to take their children to school on their first day back, provided that the employer agrees to be flexible with regards to the rules relating to giving notice of taking parental leave, and allows them to take blocks of days or half-days rather than weeks. There is no legal obligation on employers to allow this, though.”
He adds that, in addition, there is also an entitlement to reasonable time off with dependents which allows employees to deal with family emergencies, such as a breakdown in childcare, so an employee who has a dependent child could request some time off as dependency leave to take them to school as well.
Flexible working requests
Then there is flexible working. Grime says: “The ability to make a request for flexible working is a statutory entitlement in its own right and wouldn’t really work for employees who want to request some time off to take their child to school on the odd occasion. However, if an employee’s circumstances change and they need to reduce their hours permanently so that they can start later and finish earlier to take/collect their child to/from school, a flexible working request could be an option. However, the employee would need to have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment and have not made a request for flexible working in the past 12 months in order to be eligible. What’s more, an employer is able to refuse such a request if they have a satisfactory business ground for doing so.”
Growing numbers of employers are realising there are benefits to allowing employees to take the odd hour or more off. For instance, it increases employee contentment and happiness and in turn their productivity rates whilst they are at work. However, experts suggest that this must be applied consistently and not just for parents and carers if resentment is not to be created.