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Can I take time off work if my child's school is shut due to Raac concrete?

Parents who need to take time off work to look after their children during the schools concrete crisis should check their employment rights.

Children arrive at Crossflatts primary in Bradford which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). Picture date: Monday September 4, 2023. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Parents bring their children to Crossflatts Primary School in Bradford, which has been affected by the concrete crisis. (PA)

Many parents of children in more than 100 schools in England which have dangerous concrete have been forced to take time off work this week.

Pupils in several affected schools have returned to remote learning for the first time since the COVID pandemic because their buildings have been deemed unsafe.

Some schools have introduced temporary buildings, while rooms with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) are out of use, and some pupils are also being transported to different educational settings.

However, some parents have little choice but to take off work as their children have been forced into remote learning, causing severe disruption at the beginning of the school year.

Yahoo News UK examines parents' rights when it comes to taking off work during the Raac crisis:

Can parents take time off work if their child's school is affected?

They can, under a type of leave classed as "time off for dependants".

According to employment relations service Acas, anyone legally classed as an employee can take time off to help a dependant with an emergency. An employee's dependants can include their children.

Acas says a child's school closing unexpectedly is classed as an "unexpected problem or emergency".

- Parents’ relief as children return to school despite ongoing concrete issues (PA Media, 4 mins)
- What methods will be used to fix crumbling Raac buildings? (Yahoo News UK, 6-min read)

How much time can a parent take off?

The relevant legislation, the Employment Rights Act 1996, does not say how long an employee can take off or on how many occasions, according to Acas, but the amount should be "reasonable".

Remedial work being carried out at Mayflower Primary School in Leicester, which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). Picture date: Monday September 4, 2023.
Remedial work being carried out at Mayflower Primary School in Leicester, which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, or Raac. (PA)

Acas said: "The employer should be as flexible as they can be, depending on the employee's circumstances. How much time they need will depend on what has happened."

- School closures not a return to ‘dark days of lockdowns’, says education secretary (PA Media, 2 mins)

Will parents get paid for taking time off to look after their child?

This depends on the employer.

They may choose to pay employees for taking time off for dependants, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Employees should check their group's policy or their contract or talk to their employer.

Parents need to tell their employer as soon as possible that they will need time off, according to Citizens Advice.

"You also need to say why you need the time off and when you expect to be back," it said.

- Parents praise headteacher of school affected by concrete crisis (Yorkshire Post, 3 mins)

Are there alternative types of leave they can take in the concrete crisis?

Parents who are employees may be able to take their holiday entitlement if they wish, in which case they would be paid.

Anything else parents should know about leave?

Taking time off to care for a child in an emergency is only available if you are classed as an employee.

Workers may be an employee even if their employer or their contract says they are self-employed, according to Citizens Advice, which offers advice on how they can check their status.

It also said: "Your employer might let you have more time off on top of your statutory rights.

"For example, they might give you more paid holiday days. You should check your employment contract to see if you have any extra rights to time off."

Watch: We know where worst-impacted schools are, says minister