Your Employees School Is Closed As It’s Used As A Polling Station, Are They Entitled To Time Off?

Many schools are used as polling stations and will therefore be closed on 12 December 2019 leaving employees without their usual childcare arrangements. Read my tips and adivce for dealing with requests for time off.

Holiday Entitlement

The notice period for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of leave the employee wants to take, for example, an employee wishing to take 1 day off work for the day of the election would need to give you 2 days notice.

Consider allowing proportioned holiday for the day. This will help employees who can arrange cover for part of the day but are not able to cover the full day. If you allowed this you would break down one days holiday entitlement into hours and the employee would use the appropriate number of hours to cover the part of the day they need to care for their child, this may mean they arrive later and leave early. The remaining unused hours can then be used as another part day.

Top Tip
If your holiday policy states longer notice periods for requesting holiday consider allowing employees to submit requests for that one day with a reduced notice period.

Read my article How To Manage Holiday Requests and download my Template Holiday Request Form.

The Right To Time Off To Care For Dependants

All employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an unexpected event involving a dependant. Children, step-children and grand-children are defined as dependents under the legislation. The circumstances in which time off work may be taken are also specified in the legislation and include:

  • Deal with the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependent; or
  • Deal with an incident involving the employee’s child which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment is responsible for the child

The key criteria to consider is the word ‘unexpected’. For instance is a school announces early morning that the school will be closed that day due to overnight adverse weather conditions such as snow or flooding then that situation would apply as unexpected disruption. Unfortunately for your employees once a General Election has been announced the schools that are designated for use as polling stations should have informed affected parents without delay hence there is notice and the situation is not unexpected.

Top Tip

Explore the circumstances with your employee for instance when were they given notice that the school was closing? Are alternative childcare options available to them? How much would these alternatives cost? Essentially you need to find out how much effort the employee has made to avoid asking for time off work.

Read my article Time Off For Dependents Leave and download my Template Time Off For Dependents Policy.

Alternatives to Attending Work

If you have an employee who is unable to find alternative arrangements here are some alternatives you can consider:-

  • Making Up Lost Hours – if you don’t currently have a flex system in place and are implementing a temporary system ensure you stipulate the time frame by which any negative balance must be brought into a positive balance i.e. one month
  • Working from Home – not ideal for many jobs but with lap tops and mobile phones it is become more widely acceptable and most office based jobs can be adapted for a short period of time, if this will be an option ensure that the type of work is agreed in advance so you know exactly what your employee’s are doing and what work, if any would need to be redistributed amongst those who can attend work
  • Unpaid Leave – if all paid options are exhausted allow the employee to take a period of time as unpaid

Consistency

Treating employees consistently is the key to getting the best reaction from your staff, so keep this in mind when taking decisions regarding pay or other arrangements. By being more flexible and not just deducting pay, it is more likely that you will motivate staff and make up for lost time.

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Ready To Go HR Department - policies imageA subscription to my Library of Essential HR Documents provides a ‘Ready To Go HR Department’ that offers simple step by step advice to common HR problems. I like breaking down processes into simple easy to follow steps and have check-lists and templates for absolutely every HR situation you can think of. My easy to follow flow charts, meeting scripts, check-lists and template letters ensure everything is done properly, efficiently and compliantly in a professional, friendly and knowledgeable way.

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The Leave and Time Off folder provides practical solutions relating to disruption to the workplace caused by adverse weather and major sporting events. My Time Off For Dependents Policy summarises the statutory right to take unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving a dependant. I also include an Adverse Weather Policy which considers the options when adverse weather causes disruption overnight and during the working day, it suggests alternative ways of working when adverse weather and/or transport disruptions cause chaos and also reminds employees what they need to do if they are going to be absent from or late getting to work.

If A School Is Used As A Polling Station Is The Employee Entitled To Time Off?

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