Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Advice from the hotline...

The ASCL hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions on issues that arise in school/college. The questions and answers below are based on real calls to the hotline. To protect confidentiality, all scenarios have been anonymised. If you need advice on a personal or professional issue, call 0116 299 1122 and ask for the hotline officer.

Sorting paternity issues

Q I am seeking advice about parental leave. One of our staff members has recently told us that his wife is pregnant. He is insisting that he has a right to additional paternity leave under the new regulations that came into force in early April. The baby is due in the second week of October and he intends to take 26 weeks leave starting mid-November. Do we have to agree to this?

A These new paternity regulations will not apply to your member of staff. Although they came into force on 6 April 2010, they apply to children whose expected week of birth (or placement for adoption) is on or after 3 April 2011.

Of the new regulations concerning paternity leave which have been approved, the most important is the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations, which give fathers additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks. Fathers will be entitled to the additional paternity leave if the mother has returned to work, thus giving parents the option of dividing a period of paid leave entitlement between them.

It is worth noting that paternity leave is not the same as parental leave. Parental leave offers parents the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their child or make arrangements for his/her welfare. Parents can take up to 13 weeks' parental leave cumulative for each of their children up to their fifth birthday.

For adopted children, parents can take up to 13 weeks' parental leave until the fifth anniversary of the placement or until the child's 18th birthday, whichever comes first.

If a child is disabled (that is, receiving disability living allowance) parents have the right to up to 18 weeks' parental leave until their 18th birthday. Parental leave is an individual right and cannot be transferred between parents.

Travel plan proves a moving question

Q As the school business manager, I have been asked by the head to draft a travel plan. I'm not really sure what this should include. Do schools need to have these?

A A travel plan is a collection of proposals designed to promote greener and more effective travel choices in schools and other organisations. There is no statutory duty to have one but it is strongly encouraged. The plan will probably suggest the use of travel alternatives, for example car sharing, public transport, walking and cycling. You will need to draft the plan taking into account the specific circumstances of the school - it isn't enough to copy one off the shelf.

It should take into account several factors including the size and location of the school, the number of staff, the number of visitors and deliveries received and also the number of contractors servicing the building.

You should also include car parking, environmental and community issues.

Checking viability of role swap

Q Our college needs to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a member of the administrative staff who has become unwell with chronic anxiety, a disabling condition preventing her from coping with frontline work. It is our intention to offer a role-swap with another member of staff who would be happy to carry out the reception and other public duties currently fulfilled by the member of staff who is unwell. Salaries would be unaffected. Would this be an acceptable adjustment to make?

A Yes, in principle it would. A recent decision by an appeal tribunal has agreed that such role-swapping is capable of being a reasonable adjustment for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. There is also no reason why the retirement of an employee on medical grounds and his/her re-engagement in a new role cannot be a reasonable adjustment. Of course, in making any suggestions for adjustments it will be important to consult all concerned and to involve their union representatives in the discussions.

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