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03.09.2020

Handling short-notice absences as schools reopen

By Patrick Redmond

Schools have barely reopened and we’re already seeing that they need to react quickly to the risk of a COVID-19 case.

Pupils have been sent home and some schools have even closed. For your employees who have children, that’s a concern.

Should these precautions continue throughout the country, you need to prepare for short-notice absence requests from working parents.

What does the law say?

At this point in time, no employment law outside of force majeure leave exists that your business and employees can reference to handle short-notice absences.

If anything, this underlines the importance of immediate, thorough preparation.

Force majeure leave

Force majeure leave allows your employees to take paid leave to handle an urgent matter affecting a family member, such as collecting their child from school in the event of a COVID-19 situation.

However, force majeure leave doesn’t cover longer-term absences, such as a parent self-isolating or caring for a child who needs to restrict their movements.

Furthermore, force majeure leave is limited to three days over the course of twelve months, making it unsuitable for a fourteen-day isolation period.

Handling absence

While a flexible approach helps in the current situation, developing an ‘unexpected absence’ policy is also recommended. Once in place, communicate it to your employees so they understand the position of the business and their own leave entitlements.

Your policy should include details of how employees will inform you of any such absence and how your business will treat it. For example, it could confirm that working from home is permitted or that the employee will need to take time as unpaid leave.

Employees will also need to be made aware of any sick leave policies should they need to self-isolate.

Labour Party proposals

The Labour Party recently proposed a Bill that would give employees a right to six weeks’ paid sick leave if they’re affected by COVID-19. Also included is a parental leave component that would entitle parents to time off to care for their child if they’re sent home from school.

As part of your preparations, you should engage with employees to find a shared solution to any urgent school-related absences.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on short-notice absences from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call. Call us on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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