Practical advice for managing parents affected by coronavirus

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With the government now taking official steps to close schools, and with entire households needing to self-isolate if anybody shows symptoms, it’s undeniably a tricky time to be a working parent.

If you have employees who are parents of school aged children, here are some of the things to be mindful of and some of the ways you can help manage the situation.

Firstly, many parents will find it difficult to make adequate childcare arrangements. In those circumstances, the first thing to consider is whether it’s practical for the employee to work from home and/or work out of hours, and whether that would let them adequately perform their duties (for example, parents of very small children may find it too difficult to work and provide childcare at the same time).

If homeworking or out-of-hours working aren’t a viable option, parents can take reasonable unpaid time off work to care for a dependant when necessary because of an unexpected event. The key thing here is that leave is reasonable and it’s just to make alternate care provisions, not to provide care themselves. Typically, you would expect two days to be a reasonable amount of time at most, however each case should be judged on its own merits and circumstances.

If parents can’t make suitable childcare arrangements, consider offering unpaid leave and/or allowing them to use any accrued annual leave (bear in mind they may not have sufficient holiday entitlement to cover their total absence). If needed, you can oblige an employee to use their holiday allowance by giving them notice equal to twice the number of days annual allowance used – for example, obliging them to take five days holiday would require ten days’ notice.

Lastly, please remember that an employee who is self-isolating – even if not ill themselves – is entitled to statutory sick pay from day one of their absence.

This is a very fluid situation and government advice is changing all of the time, so please keep an eye on the gov.uk website for any news and contact us if you have any queries.

Updated: 19th March 2020

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