Update for Employers on Coronavirus school closures

Update for Employers on Coronavirus school closures

The following is general guidance which, to the best of our knowledge, is correct as at the time of publication. This constantly evolving area of law is being amended regularly. We will endeavour to update this guidance accordingly.

Updated 20th Jan at 09:15

The decision has been taken to close schools across the UK. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced early on Wednesday with the Education Secretary and Prime Minister both making the announcement in respect of England later.

Schools are to be shut from Friday afternoon ‘until further notice’ and this year’s summer exams will not go ahead in England and Wales. Some schools are expected to remain open for the children of ‘key workers’ and those children considered most in need such as those with Education, Health and Care Plans.

What is a ‘Key Worker’?

The Department for Education has now issued guidance for schools on the maintenance of education provision during the course of the covid-19 virus.

The guidance includes a list of those ‘critical sectors’ which mean that a child will be prioritised for education provision. These are:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Education and Childcare
  • Key Public Services
  • Local and National Government
  • The Production, Processing, Distribution, Sale and Delivery of food and other necessary good
  • Public Safety and National Security
  • Transport
  • Utilities, Communications and Financial Services

The guidance clarifies examples of these roles and then suggests that workers confirm this point with their employer. The role itself must be necessary for the continuation of an essential public service based on the business’ continuity arrangements.

Time Off To Look After Children

The Government’s position is that as many people as possible should be homeworking at this stage and employers should be facilitating it where they can. Where this is not possible, employers should consider flexible working to allow parents to share time with each other, work around childcare needs and be with their children at important times such as meals.

Official advice is to not ask grandparents to look after children.

There is, at the moment, no right to paid time off to look after children. Unpaid parental leave (up to 4 weeks in any given year per child) may apply for employees who have one year’s service and unpaid dependant leave (emergency time off to look after a dependent individual) may also apply in the short-term. However, dependent leave is intended to deal with emergency situations and will not be feasible for many people if schools are closed through to the summer.

The Government is due to table emergency legislation later today (Thursday 19th) which may provide clarity or further answers and we will seek to update all information for employees and employers alike as quickly as possible.

If you would like to speak to one of our team about this or any other employment law issue please call 01202 499255 and Kate, Paul or Chris will be happy to discuss it with you.

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