Employees who need to take time off work to care for their children with COVID-19 – what are the options?
Since 20 January 2022, face coverings are no longer advised to be worn in classrooms by pupils, staff or visitors (Schools COVID-19 operational guidance). From today, Thursday 27 January 2022, the Government are ending ‘Plan B’ measures, which includes the requirement for face coverings to be worn in schools.
Despite these requirements being removed, COVID-19 remains common among school children at the moment. We are often asked what the options are for employees who are unable to attend work because they need to look after a child who has tested positive for COVID-19, but the employee has not tested positive themselves. In particular, how much they should be paid.
In cases where the employee has not tested positive, so is not sick and is fit to work, we advise exploring the following options with the employee:
- Work from home: if their role permits this and they are happy to work while caring for their child, and pay as normal allowing flexibility to care for children;
- Annual leave: offer the option of taking the time as holiday to cover pay for the time off;
- Flexible arrangement: discuss alternatives with the employee i.e. time off in lieu, or agreeing different hours/days on a temporary basis when someone else is available to look after the child until they can return to school;
- Unpaid leave: this can be agreed between the employee and the company;
- Emergency time off to care for a dependant: this is a statutory right to request time off to deal with an emergency. A child qualifies as a dependant and the time off must be to deal with an emergency, which includes providing assistance when a child falls ill, making care arrangements or dealing with an unexpected incident involving the employee’s child while they are at school. Time off for this reason is unpaid, unless there is a company policy that provides for pay in these circumstances, or discretion is exercised by the company; or
- Compassionate leave: this is an alternative to time off for dependants to deal with emergency situations. Time off for this reason is unpaid, unless there is a company policy that provides for pay in these circumstances, or discretion is exercised by the company.
The best approach is to keep an open discussion with the employee to try to work out the best solution for them and your business.
If you wish to discuss the above or have any specific questions regarding your workforce, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Employment Lawyers on 01202 525333 for further advice.
How can we help?
When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.