SCHOOLS across the country could need to close to help stop the spread of coronavirus. but what are working parents rights to pay and time off?

So far, the UK government has avoided shutting schools, but has warned the measure could still be on the cards if the virus continues to spread.

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meaning parents could need emergency childcare or time off work.

Experts in the UK say the country could go into lock down in a matter of weeks.

We explain your employment rights if your child's school is closed.

How to check if your kids' school is closed

You can check for school closures in England and Wales using the Gov.uk tool, which redirects you to the council website the school falls under.

In Scotland, you can check using MyGov.Scot, which will again redirect you the local council's website.

In Northern Ireland, closures are listed on the NIDirect website – there aren't any at present.

Can you get time of work if your children's school is closed?

Parents are entitled to take time off work to look after children – and you won't face disciplinary action or lose your job.

This is known as "dependant leave" which allows mums and dads to take time off to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency.

The downside is that you may not be paid, unless your employer specifically says you will.

You may be able to negotiate paid time off, but it's down to the discretion of your employer.

Workers may also be able to negotiate taking holiday or lieu days – but again, it's up to your boss.

Crucially, your employer can't make you work extra hours or make up the missed time.

You can take off up to 18 weeks unpaid leave before your child is 18.

Can you work from home or request flexible working?

The UK government has said that everyone should work from home where possible.

But as this this is only advice, whether you are allowed to or not will depend on your employer.

All employees have the right to request flexible working – not just parents.

But you must have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

Employers must assess the advantages and disadvantages, as well as hold a meeting with you to discuss the request.

Flexible working can include working from home, flexitime and job sharing.

Employers can reject the request for a number of reasons, including extra costs to the business and not being able to reorganise staff to cover your work.

You may find that employers are encouraging staff to work from home where possible during an outbreak of the virus.

Tom Neil, an ACAS senior adviser said: "Existing laws on employment rights will still apply at work until the government passes any new emergency laws through parliament to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak."

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