Frequently asked questions
My partner’s boss has told him to work on site during the local lockdown. When we shared the childcare I could work from home and join the school rota. Can I take paid leave?
Your partner should explain to his employer that you share the childcare and that arrangements will need to be made to accommodate your shared responsibility for the care of your children during the lockdown. While he is negotiating this, you should contact your workplace rep and seek out your flexible working, emergency leave, parental leave and any other carer’s leave policies and procedures. If necessary, liaise with your rep or NEU group and ask for your rota duties to be removed or reduced and ask to work from home if it is possible to do so safely. If working from home is not possible seek a flexible working adjustment or carer’s leave – for advice, see below.
My children were home-schooling as we were worried that COVID is a greater risk to Black families like us. Dad is a key worker. I’ve been asked to return to school from September can I work from home?
You can download our template letter to write to your employer, which you can adapt to inform your employer of your personal circumstances and your concerns. If you are aware of other members who are in a similar position to you, you may wish to liaise with them and your workplace rep to coordinate sending your letter so that all issues are considered by your employer.
Your employer must have conducted a risk assessment as part of planning for wider opening of schools. The NEU expects employers to carry out a risk assessment relating to every individual member of staff to help ensure safety for staff and their families. Given the known greater risks of Covid-19 to other specific groups, especially older workers and Black and disabled workers, the risk assessment must consider whether the staff member is in one or more such higher risk groups.
If working from home is not possible you could seek a flexible working adjustment or carer’s leave – for advice, see the NEU Flexible Working resources and the guidance below
I’m a single parent, working from home. My employer told me to use its nursery accessible only by public transport. My brother will have my son from September – do I have to use this nursery?
Childcare for your own children is entirely your prerogative. It is not your employer’s place to direct you to use a particular provider. Contact your workplace rep or your line manager if you don’t have a rep and ask to continue with your current arrangement for the rest of the summer term, explaining that you want to avoid public transport and that you have arrangements for September. If this is refused, consider whether you could take some leave to care for your son until the end of the summer term. Please contact AdviceLine for further support if necessary.
Our child-minder has closed her business and I can’t find alternative childcare for my 2 year old daughter. I’m an exhausted mother, can I take emergency leave?
If you have a partner, discuss with them how you can share the childcare between you.
All parents and carers of children are entitled to take advantage of time off for emergencies if they need it. Time off for emergencies, also known as time off for dependants, can be taken without notice to deal with a sudden loss of childcare. It is usually unpaid and usually short term, for a period of several hours or a few days. Contact your workplace rep if you have one, or your school office and ask for a copy of your emergency or dependants leave policy. If the emergency leave is not sufficient to enable you to source childcare, consider applying for parental leave. You’ll need to have worked for your employer for a year and you need to give 21 days’ notice (unless your policy gives a shorter notice period). Your partner could take emergency leave and parental leave too. You and your partner should also consider asking for flexible working, to allow you to adjust your hours temporarily until you have secured childcare; see the NEU Flexible Working resources. And try to factor in some time for yourself to take care of your own physical and mental health needs. Click here for NEU guidance on Mental Health.
My head wants all staff on site from September and has refused any kind of flexibility for staff with children. What can we do?
You’re advised to arrange a virtual meeting of all members to discuss how to challenge this approach. Speak to your rep if you have one or elect one if you don’t. Your head is at risk of all sorts of claims for taking such a blanket approach, especially during a national crisis. For example, women who are disadvantaged because their employer refuses reasonable flexible working arrangements to allow them to balance work and childcare, may be able to claim indirect sex discrimination if attempts to resolve the matter individually or collectively do not resolve the issue. Please contact AdviceLine for further support if necessary.
My parents did the school run for our children but are shielding. I was working from home and home-schooling but my head told me to be on site from September. What are my options?
If you have a partner, discuss with them how you can share the childcare between you. You might need to consider other childcare options outside your family from September. Childcare provision has dropped considerably so you could consider with your partner requesting adjustments to your working days or hours.
Until you find a permanent childcare solution, you could both consider taking parental leave if you’ve been in your jobs for over a year. Working parents and carers can take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child in their care. This leave can be taken at any point before each child turns 18. Usually, it must be taken in blocks of a week, and you can use up to four weeks of it per child each year. If your child is disabled, you can also take the leave in shorter blocks if you need to. Most employers will require that you give at least 21 days’ notice before you take parental leave and most parental leave is unpaid.