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Parents who are directly employed are entitled to two types of leave: 1. Time off for dependants (available from day one of your employment) You can take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with emergencies and to make any necessary longer-term arrangements for a child or other dependant.

Incidents covered by the law include:

* Illness

* Accident

* Absence of a childminder

* School emergencies.

But you do not have the right to stay at home with a child for the duration of the illness - only the time you need to see a doctor, say, or to make alternative childcare arrangements. There is no limit on the number of times an employee may be absent from work for genuine emergencies.

This absence could be unpaid, but this is at the discretion of your headteacher. Your manager has to be notified of your absence as soon as is practicable, but this does not have to be in writing, and you don't have to produce evidence of the particular emergency.

Your head can start disciplinary procedures if he or she believes you are taking unfair advantage.

Your job isn't threatened: a head or board of governors cannot use time off under the legislation as a reason for dismissal or selected for redundancy.

2. Parental leave (available if you have been employed continuously for one year, or the part-time equivalent) You are entitled to parental leave to look after a child under five (or a disabled child up to the age of eighteen) or make arrangements for the child's welfare. You can use this leave to spend more time with your children. You are entitled to:

...Up to 13 weeks paid leave for a child under five

* In the case of adoption, up to the fifth year after the adoption

* Eighteen weeks up to a disabled child's 18th birthday, if he or she is in receipt of disability living allowance.

You have the right to return to the same job as before or, if that is not practicable, a similar job which has the same or better status, terms and conditions as the old job at the end of your leave period. If the leave taken is for a period of four weeks or less, you are entitled to go back to the same job.

Try to come to an agreement with your school. If that fails, you are entitled to take up to four weeks unpaid leave per year, with 21 days'

written notice. This is not. The school can then postpone this for up to six months if it is unable to cope with the absence. But it cannot do this immediately after the birth of a child or an adoption.

Your headteacher has the right to ask how much leave you took while you were employed at another school.

Employment Relations Acts, 1996 and 1999

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