School closures after water leaks: Can parents leave work and will they be compensated?

Hundreds of parents have been affected by school closures in South Ribble today due to a burst water pipe in Lostock Hall.

Monday, 26th November 2018, 10:23 am
Updated Monday, 26th November 2018, 11:35 am

Schools in Lostock Hall and Farington closed this morning and asked parents to collect children after a burst pipe left them with no water supply.

United Utilities swiftly repaired the leak and the supply was returned to most homes, schools and businesses around 9am.

But Lostock Hall Academy, Lostock Community Primary School and St Paul's Primary School in Farington Moss said they will remain closed for the day.

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The leak caused frustration for many parents who were forced to take the day off work to care for children who were turned away from school.

Some parents who had already left for their morning commute had no option but to return home to collect their children from school.

But are parents entitled to compensation for the inconvenience caused by school closures?

According to United Utilities, the simple answer is 'no'.

The water company said it will always strive to help keep schools stay open by delivering pallets of bottled water and deploying tankards to pump fresh, clean water into the schools' systems.

A spokesman for United Utilities said: "We urge schools to contact us if they have no water. If we believe it may take a few hours to restore we have measures in place to help schools with alternative water supplies so they can manage during any temporary disruption.

"In this case, engineers managed to isolate the burst and began restoring supplies by 8am. This message was relayed to the schools who contacted us.

"We can’t comment on any decision the schools may have taken to close."

United Utilities said a number of schools in the area had contacted them this morning and they were able to reassure them that the water supply would be swiftly repaired.

These schools made the decision to remain open and the water supply returned shortly before 9am.

As a further precaution, the utility company sent six tankards carrying thousands of gallons of fresh water to the area. These were ready for use if repairs were to take longer than expected.

It is not known whether Lostock Hall Academy, Lostock Community Primary School and St Paul's Primary School contacted United Utilities before taking the decision to send pupils home.

The schools could not be reached for comment.

Do bosses have to give parents time off to look after children if schools close unexpectedly?

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, parents are entitled to unpaid time off, known as 'dependant leave'.

All employees have the right to time off during working hours to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies.

A spokesman for Citizens Advice Bureau said: "In an emergency, you are entitled to take time off to make sure your child is looked after. This is known as dependant leave.

"A dependant is defined as a spouse, partner, child, parent, or someone who depends on an employee for care.

"Your employer can’t refuse you dependent leave if you have no other choice, and you can’t be disciplined or sacked for taking the time off.

"However, it's important to note that while your employer has to authorise your absence, it will, in most cases be unpaid.

"There is no legal right to be paid, but some employers may offer a contractual right to pay under the terms and conditions of employment.

"If your employer won’t give you time off, or has disciplined you for having to look after your child, you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help."