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Back to school: what to do when an employee requests time off to care for a sick child



We’ve almost reached the end of September! For many of us, this means our children have been back at school for almost a month.


Illnesses spread freely at school, especially after six weeks off. As the colder months creep back in, and with Covid still lurking around, runny noses and sneezes are sure to make an appearance - as such, your employees may request time off work to care for their sick children.


But where does this leave you as an employer? Should you grant your employees the time they need, with pay, no questions asked? If so, are there any exceptions?


All employees are entitled to time off work if they need to care for a dependent in an emergency. This rule also applies to parents, spouses, grandchildren - anyone who depends on you for care.


In the first instance, your employee is permitted enough time to reasonably deal with the situation and make arrangements, such as doctor appointments. You can then ask your employee to take annual or sick leave if they need more time to care for their child.


The only exception to this rule is if your employee knew about the situation before it happened. For instance, emergency leave does not apply if they need to take their child to a pre-existing doctor or hospital appointment, although you can grant them parental leave.


Some situations may also call for compassionate leave, which can be paid or unpaid - this is up to you as an employer.


Your employee’s contract should state whether or not you have an obligation to pay them for the time they need off to care for a dependent. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to review your contracts! I can help you draft policies to guide your process and protect you if anyone tries to abuse their entitlements.


If you have any questions about sick leave or anything else, please get in touch to set up a call.







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