What are my rights if I need more time off for childcare than normal?

7th October 2020

Finally, the kids are back at school and hopefully enjoying seeing their friends and are settling in – unfortunately, the inevitable colds and other bugs will be venturing back through your door that go hand-in-hand with school term.

Normally, we know how to handle these situations. We might have other care givers who can help or if it’s just a cold and your child feels well enough, they can still go to school.

But what happens if they get a temperature and your normal care givers aren’t part of your bubble? Due to Covid-19, child illness and school absence isn’t quite as straight forward as it used to be. If your child has a temperature, they are not allowed back until they have had a negative Covid-19 test.  Due to tests being in short supply, parents are facing the possibility of having to isolate for at least 14 days before their children can go back to school. With more time off work likely to be needed for childcare in these eventualities, what exactly are your employment rights?

Firstly, do remember the Government issue guidance regularly so you should always check to see what the current guidance is for the area in which you live.

By now you should have a good idea about how your employers are reacting to Covid-19, working from home may be an option for you which may help. You can also request flexible working, however this won’t be an option for everyone as not all jobs can be completed from home. Some jobs, even working from home, can be extremely challenging when you have a poorly child to look after.

If you were previously furloughed, a flexible furlough agreement may be an option if you fall within the guidelines. This may be worth discussing with your employer as a temporary solution. Do note the scheme ends on 31st October.  The Jobs Support Scheme takes over from Furlough in November 2020, this allows employers to employ people for reduced hours with Government support, this may be something to look at.

If you have holiday entitlement you can consider using it or if you have been employed for a year, as a parent, you are entitled to 4 weeks unpaid parental leave per child. Notice of intention to take this time needs to be given, it would therefore be good practice if you are concerned about your situation to have an open conversation with your employer so you are both clear on the preferred way to deal with your absence due to childcare responsibilities. By having these conversations, it will mean if you need the time off you and your employer will know exactly how this is to be handled, with no nasty surprises. Ensure anything you agree is confirmed to you in writing.

Your legal entitlement to time off work for childcare can be complicated and confusing, especially in the current climate with ever changing rules and guidelines.   If you need advice concerning your rights as an employee or if you are an employer and need legal advice, contact Kim McDonald on 01392 424242 or email .