What should we do when staff want time off for childcare?

What should we do when staff want time off for childcare?

December 8, 2021

It’s not at all uncommon for staff to be unable to come to work due to their children being off school.

Even this week we are hearing of children being told that they are not to attend school but instead will learn remotely due to the rising numbers of Coronavirus infections in their area.

If a parent is an employee with a child under 18 who is identified as a close contact of a confirmed or suspected case of Coronavirus with the Omicron variant they will have to self isolate. If the child can’t be left then the parent may well ask for time off for the 10 days of self isolation. This again would be unpaid as they are not self isolating.

If you are approached by an employee wanting to take time off for their children then it is a hard conversation for the employee, and a hard one for the employer.

Especially when we are short staffed it can be very tempting to ask the employee to find someone else to look after their child so that they can come to work.

Don’t forget there is no Furlough now for employees with children suddenly off school to be able to be furloughed from work.

Here’s things to consider if you are approached by an employee requesting time off for their children:

  1. Can a compromise be found, could you move their hours/shifts in order for them to do some work?
  2. Do they want where eligible, to make a formal request for parental leave?
  3. Do they want, where eligible, to make a request for flexible working (this would be a permanent request)?
  4. Do they want to use untaken annual leave?
  5. Can they swap with a colleague?
  6. Could you offer childcare?
  7. Could they do any useful work from home (where the children are older)?

The bottom line is that an employee has the right to time off to deal with the initial emergency. They do not have the right to be off work without you agreeing a parental leave request. They are obliged to fulfill the contract of employment they signed.  Always try and find a compromise but that means both sides need to be flexible. You are able to make your decision on the needs of the business.

If you have any questions about handling requests for time off for children, please do give us a call on 01527 909436.


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