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It has been announced that schools in Wales and Scotland are to close from Friday, and an announcement is expected today to extend the closures to English schools as well. In the meantime, more schools and nurseries faced with staff shortages are having to close their doors to some or all children, presenting a childcare problem for working parents. Other employees may need to care for elderly relations or other vulnerable individuals if day centres are ordered to cease operations temporarily.

There is no obligation on employers to grant employees additional paid time off in these circumstances. If an employer exercises its discretion to do so, this should be done fairly and in a non-discriminatory way.

There are a number of options available:

  • Many employees are already now working from home if their role permits them to do so. For those who are not yet, the employer may allow the employee to do so if their job is one that can be done remotely and the employee’s circumstances permit them to do so.
  • Some employees may not be able to work their usual hours, but may be able to work shorter hours, or usual hours but at a different time of day, if the employer is able to accommodate this.
  • Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid dependent’s leave if necessary to care for dependents (spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on the employee for care) or to make arrangements for their care.
  • They may also be able to take unpaid parental leave for up to four weeks per year per child.
  • Alternatively, the employee may ask to take annual leave.

What if the employee is caring for someone confirmed to have coronavirus?

Statutory sick pay should be paid to employees who have COVID-19, or who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with government guidance.

However, subject to any further government announcements, an employee who moves in with an elderly or vulnerable relative without symptoms to support them during a period of self-isolation would not be entitled to SSP.

Where statutory sick pay (of £94.25 per week) is to be paid, the government has announced that for coronavirus or possible cases of coronavirus, it should be paid to employees from the first day of absence, rather than the fourth. Although the change in law is not yet in force, it will have retrospective effect from 13 March 2020.

Author

Lily Collyer has worked extensively in the Financial Services sector, advising clients in that sector on all aspects of employment law including litigation, global projects, and general counsel advice. Lily joined Baker & McKenzie LLP as a trainee solicitor in 2003, qualifying in the Employment Group in 2005. Lily has spent time working in Baker McKenzie's offices in Sydney and Hong Kong.

Author

John Evason manages the employment team in London. He is a specialist employment lawyer advising on all aspects of employment law. He is ranked as a star individual in Chambers and a leading individual in Legal 500. He is a member and former chair of the Legislative and Policy Sub-Committee of the Employment Lawyers Association which provides comments to the UK government on new and amended legislation and regulations. He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars, and frequently contributes to various legal and personnel publications.

Author

Paul Harrison practices mainly in the area of employment law and serves as counsel in Baker McKenzie's Employment Group in London. Paul is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars, and has contributed articles on myriad employment issues to various legal and personnel publications.

Author

Monica Kurnatowska is a partner in the Firm's London office. She focuses on employment law and has been recognised by Chambers UK as a leading lawyer in her field. Monica is a regular speaker at internal and external seminars and workshops, and has written for a number of external publications on bonus issues, atypical workers, TUPE and outsourcing.

Author

Christine O’Brien is a senior counsel in Baker McKenzie’s Employment team in London. She is recognized as a leading lawyer in her field by Chambers UK and The Legal 500. A former chair of the Employment Lawyer Association’s International Committee, she also co-chaired the Firm’s European Employment Group, and led the London office’s employment law department until July 2013. Christine regularly contributes to PLC as well as Sweet & Maxwell’s loose-leaf volume on collective consultation and the implementation of the Acquired Rights Directive.

Author

Stephen Ratcliffe is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Employment and Benefits practice in London. He has more than 14 years of legal experience and was recognized as an "Associate to Watch" by Chambers & Partners in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before his promotion to partnership. Stephen has been described as "very precise, technically excellent, but also very practical."

Author

Carl is a partner in the Employment Group at Baker McKenzie. He focuses on advising organisations on the employment aspects of financial transactions together with more general employment and litigation advice. Carl has been recommended in the Chambers legal directory as being “hailed for his rigour and interpersonal approach to assignments”, an ability to “build a rapport very quickly with clients." Carl is also recommended by Legal 500 and has been quoted as being “excellent across the board” “very thorough,” “strong on transactional matters," “staying on top of the issues” and is further quoted as being “thorough, patient and goes the extra mile.”

Author

Author

Julia Wilson is a partner in Baker McKenzie's Employment & Compensation team in London. She advises senior legal and HR stakeholders on a range of employment and data protection matters. A member of the Firm's Pro Bono Committee, she plays a lead role in the Firm's pro bono relationship with Save the Children International. She also collaborates with Law Works to deliver employment law training to solicitors who provide pro bono advice to individuals. Julia regularly presents at external and internal client seminars on a range of topics, and is often quoted in mainstream media. She authored precedent policies for the UK's Practical Law Company and co-wrote the common concepts chapter of the Tolley's Discrimination Handbook.