Will you get paid if your child is put into coronavirus isolation?
- Credit: Archant/Howes Percival
Parents could risk weeks of unpaid leave if their child is put into isolation over coronavirus, an employment lawyer has warned.
Employees and employers need to work together to establish how to handle the coronavirus crisis, Matt Potter, partner at Howes Percival, has warned.
Mr Potter spoke after the government changed legislation around statutory sick pay this week, so that those forced to self-isolate would not miss out.
Mr Potter said: "In layman's terms, the changes to legislation mean that statutory sick pay will kick in earlier than normal.
"Under normal circumstances sick pay would only kick in after the third day off work, but under this legislation it begins on the first day - unless specified elsewhere in a contract. Statutory sick pay only amounts to about £95 a week, meaning it's worth around £30. It could mean a lot for families relying on minimum wage incomes."
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However, Mr Potter warned that employers may be asking their staff to prove they are not needlessly self-isolating.
Mr Potter, who heads up Howes Percival's East Anglian employment team, explained: "As ever with these things there might be some people who take advantage. Employers might want some evidence that people aren't self-isolating for the sake of it - but will have to be pragmatic about it.
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"People might not be able to get fit notes if they're self-isolating, but I think people could face disciplinary action if they can't prove they needed to go into isolation."
With regards to parents, Mr Potter said: "Parents of children who are under 18 - or parents of over-18s with disabilities - can legally have four weeks a year off for parental leave.
"However, that time off is unpaid. Employees need to have conversations with their managers about whether time off to look after children is taken as parental leave, holiday time, or perhaps toil time."
He added that if a child was in self-isolation, their parents are likely to need to self-isolate anyway.
He said: "The other thing to bear in mind is that we're seeing many employers using this period to test flexible work options.
"I've had clients sending their staff home - almost like a fire drill - to see how the business operates and whether working from home has an impact.
"This can actually be a positive thing - it cuts down on emissions if people aren't getting in their car and driving to work, and also insures that the IT and infrastructure is in place if needed."
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