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The Law - Policies on time off

Leave of absence for school staff remains a minefield, despite recent statutory provisions giving all employees increased rights. In addition to the paid leave provisions for new parents, there are the rights to ask for a move from full- to part-time work, and for taking time off to care for dependants.

It is up to the employer to decide whether the time off is with pay. Time off following the death of a close relative is not covered by these provisions. It still depends on local agreement, as does time off for attending your child or partner's graduation, a wedding or a birth.

Officials of trade unions have the right to reasonable paid time off to attend to and train for their duties. But paid leave for holders of public offices, such as magistrates, school governors or staff on jury service, depends on local agreement. Some schools even allow up to 10 days for annual Territorial Army training.

Time off should also be given to teachers for attending interviews, taking relevant examinations or study leave, or for any other professional activity covered by the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales. Similar requests from support staff are subject to local agreements which may differ from those with teachers.

To avoid inadvertent inconsistency, all schools should have clear policies on the entitlement, and whether leave will be paid or not.

Chris Lowe, Former headteacher and trade union legal consultant.

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