Coronavirus: what are your rights?

Taking time off work to look after your children

Although at the moment it looks like the UK isn’t going to have mass school closures to deal with the coronavirus, several have closed for short periods. Many parents are rightly worried about what will happen if their children have to stay home, either because they catch COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) or because their school closes. So what does it mean for parents if you have to take time off work to look after your children?

If your child gets ill or their school closes unexpectedly, the Government says that this is classed as an emergency and that your employer can’t stop you taking time off. There’s no limit on how long you can take off work.

However, depending on your occupation and contract, your employer might not have to pay you and you may have to take the time off as parental leave or holiday. Although many people nowadays can work from home if they have to, probably more than half the population don’t have that option, so are less likely to get paid during time off.

However, even if you have to take a long time off work, your employer isn’t allowed to sack you, put you up for redundancy or treat you unfairly in any other way.

Taking time off if you’re ill

But what about if you get ill yourself? The law says that you don’t need any medical proof for the first seven days you’re ill. After that, it’s up to your employer what they ask for. The NHS is in the process of making it easier for people with COVID-19 to provide a sick note to their employer.

Different companies have different rules on sick pay, but for people who are ill with COVID-19, the Government has said that statutory sick pay will be paid from the first day of illness, rather than the fourth day.

If you’re self-employed or on a zero-hours contract, you might be able to claim Universal Credit.

For further information on your rights for taking time off work, see:

www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

To help out during this epidemic, we’re allowing teachers, parents and children to download a free digital copy of First News every week, so that our readers don’t miss out on the latest news – and maybe letting you get on with your own work while your kids are engrossed in the newspaper.

By Ian Eddy.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

 

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