Working parents and school closures

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK, the Government made the unsurprising decision to close schools from Friday 20th March for the foreseeable future, placing pressure on all families with school-age children and particularly parents who are unable to work from home.

To continue the fight against Coronavirus, the Government has clearly identified key worker’s to assist in keeping the country running during this critical time, key workers include, but are not limited to (the full list can be found on the government website):

  • Health and social workers
  • Education and childcare
  • Key public services
  • Local and national government
  • Food and other necessary goods
  • Public safety and national security

As such, schools remain open across the country to ensure the children of key workers’ educational needs are met during the pandemic.

Not a key worker and unable to work from home?

Your employer has an obligation to offer you parental leave, if you are eligible. Under the current legislation you are entitled to a total of 18 weeks leave for each child and/or an adopted child until the age of 18. Unless otherwise stated in your contract of employment, parental leave is unpaid.

Importantly, there is a set limit of 4 weeks to be taken in any year, unless otherwise agreed by your employer.

Your rights when taking parental leave

When taking parental leave, your employment rights (pay, holidays and returning to work) remain protected.  You should also bear in mind that parental leave applies to the child; not a period of employment by a specific employer, for example, if you have taken a total of 10 weeks leave for 1 child with a previous employer you are only eligible for a further 8 weeks for that child with a new employer, subject to your eligibility.

Are you eligible to parental leave?

You will qualify for parental leave if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have worked for your current employer for more than a year
  • You are named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate or you are expected to have parental responsibility for the child
  • You are not self-employed or a ‘worker’, eg an agency worker or contractor
  • You are not a foster parent (unless they’ve secured parental responsibility through the courts)
  • The child you have parental responsibility for is under 18

You will need to make enquiries with your current employer as to how parental leave is requested at your place of work. Usually requests should be made in writing with at least 21 days’ notice. However, in these uncertain times; employers are looking to be as flexible as possible with their staff.

Your contract of employment should state any special benefits or requirements regarding parental leave, but remember, if you are eligible, you are legally entitled to parental leave.

If you have any questions regarding parental leave, your contract of employment, or any other family-related issues please don’t hesitate to contact us 01296 318 500 or email