If an employee needs time off work to look after someone as a result of the pandemic, there are some key things to be aware of.

Employees are entitled to request time off from work duties to look after someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in the event of an unexpected event or emergency situation, such as those which relate to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Types of recognised dependants should be outlined within your existing employee handbook, however a dependant may not necessarily refer only to someone living with your employee and so it is best practice to review this on a case-by-case basis, should you receive a request for this type of leave.

There is no statutory right to receive pay for dependants leave, however this may be offered, depending on your existing workplace policy.

The amount of time off an employee may take should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, however this should be reasonable depending on each individual situation.  For example, you may initially grant 2-3 days of dependants leave and, if more time is needed, the employee could either utilise further dependants leave or some annual leave, should the employee be happy to agree to this.

In the event that an employee needs to self-isolate because a dependant has developed symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19, the employee is then entitled to receive statutory sick say (SSP) as a minimum for this time.

Time off for childcare

In the event that there are further disruptions to schools or childcare services as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, this will have an effect on care and working arrangements, as this will no doubt be an anxious and difficult time for both parents and employers alike.

If employees need emergency time off for childcare or to make new arrangements, one of the following can be utilised:

  • Dependants leave
  • Unpaid leave
  • Annual leave (if the employee requests this and the employer agrees)

Employers and employees should consider these steps:

  • Keeping the lines of communication open to ensure employees feel that they are able to speak to employers about any time off that might be needed, as early as possible
  • Scheduling regular 1-2-1 meetings with employees to ensure both employer and employee can plan ahead as much as possible
  • Where possible, employers may wish to consider the possibility of agreeing to more flexible working arrangements for any affected employees, on a temporary basis, such as working from home or changing working hours to allow for childcare, as this may be more productive in the long run.
  • Whilst the Governments Job Retention Scheme is expected to come to an end on Thursday 30th September 2021, up until this point, the business may wish to consider placing any affected employees on furlough leave if necessary, providing they meet the qualifying conditions to do so and this fits in with business requirements..

Any agreements made between employer and employee should be confirmed to the employee in writing for clarity.

If we can help you with this or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.

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