Britain has been told to brace itself for heavy snow this week, which could lead to schools closing to deal with the chilly temperatures.

But if you have children, are you allowed to take the time off work to look after them?

The good news is that the answer is ‘yes’, under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The law states that employees are allowed to take a reasonable period of time off to deal with an emergency that means one of their dependent’s care arrangements have fallen through.

Snow or other weather extremes enough to cause school closures are likely to come under under this legislation.

If you need to take time off to look after your kids, then let your employer know as soon as you can and tell them how long you expect to be off.

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The bad news is that you may not be entitled to be paid for the day(s) you take off, but it is always worth speaking with your employer to find out what their policy is on this.

Many places of work are flexible on this, and may allow to work different hours or just let you take it off.

Employers are not allowed to penalise people for taking time off to look after any dependents either, so it might be worth getting in touch with your local Citizens Advice centre if you are punished.

Parents who have worked with their employer for at least a year are also entitled to parental leave.

Each employee is entitled to up to 18 weeks’ leave for each child and adopted child, up to their 5th birthday – or 18th if the child has a disability.

The limit each parent can take each year is four weeks.

You must take parental leave as whole weeks rather than odd days, unless your employer agrees otherwise or your child is disabled.

Eligible employees can request this type of leave to:

  • Spend more time with their children
  • Look at new schools
  • Settle children into new childcare arrangements
  • Spend more time with family, such as visiting grandparents

To qualify, you must:

  • Have worked in the organisation for more than a year
  • Have “parental responsibility” for the child, as defined under the Children Act 1989
  • Be named on the child’s birth certificate or have obtained formal legal parental responsibilities

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