15 Mar 2020

Workers who need to take time off to care for person affected by COVID-19

Many employers can, and do, agree compassionate leave arrangements with staff who need to take short periods of time off to care for another person.

These include arrangements to enable employees to work remotely from home, to alter shift-patterns, to work-up time taken, to rearrange parental leave or to bring forward annual leave entitlements from future work-periods.

Where it is not possible to make appropriate compassionate leave arrangements, employees can call on some statutory entitlements.

An employee is entitled to paid leave, known as ‘force majeure leave’ to provide urgent care for an immediate family relative such as a child, spouse, brother, sister, parent or grandparent. It is also available to a partner who is living with the employee. Force majeure is limited to a total of three days in a 12 month period or five days in a 36 month period. In the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19 it is expected that employers will, if at all possible, facilitate people by allowing them to take the full 5 days entitlement in one block, as required.

Parents are entitled, with 6 weeks’ notice, to take up to 22 weeks unpaid parental leave to care for each child up to 12 years of age (16 years of age in the case of a child with a disability).

Parents are also entitled, with 6 weeks’ notice, to take parents leave of 2 weeks for each child under 1 year of age born on or after 1 November 2019. Parents taking parents leave are eligible to apply for Parent's Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Applications can be made online at www.mywelfare.ie or by post.

Employers are free to waive notice periods for parental/parents leave or to agree to provide paid leave as an alternative to parental/parents leave. Employers can also agree alternative leave/absence arrangements.

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