One of the most popular questions coming into our local office in the last few weeks is what you can do if you need to be off work to care for someone who is usually looked after either at school or day care and they can’t go to their usual placements, or you can’t work because you have a dependent adult and because of the virus, the usual carer can’t attend.
If you are employed, this can be a huge issue. If you are looking after someone who has the virus, then you may well be able to get statutory sick pay to do so, especially if you need to self-isolate.
If you are returning from maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave and your employer has used the scheme to furlough other employers then they may be able to furlough you as well if you ask.
The advisers at Citizens Advice East Devon will be able to help
Your employer might say you have to work and then you will need to negotiate, perhaps you can work from home, or at different hours that might suit you better like evenings and weekends or on a different task or even fewer hours.
You can also look at your employment contract to see if there are any terms that might make it easier to negotiate with your employer? Even if your employer does not currently offer flexible ways of working, now might be a good time to ask.
You could ask to use your holiday, some companies allow staff to buy extra days of leave which will affect your pay but if you are on universal credit, your universal credit might make up some of the difference. Citizens Advice East Devon can do a comprehensive, free benefits check to predict how much you might lose in these circumstances.
If you want to keep your job open, and your company don’t want to lose you then ask for unpaid leave. Put your request in writing is always best.
The law says that your employer should allow you to have unpaid leave for a limited period of time. However, if you need the time off to look after your dependent child you might have a right to parental leave or time off for a dependent if you need to provide care for another person who is adult.
To get parental leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least a year and you can get 18 weeks in total for each child you have up to the age of 18. The other parent though can also take 18 weeks parental leave. You cannot take this leave if you have been furloughed.
By law you have to tell your employer at least 21 days before you want this leave to start and you can only take 4 weeks leave per child per year which is the legal minimum. Your employment contract might be more generous that this, so it is always a good idea to check the terms.
You can also get reasonable time off to deal with unexpected problems and emergencies with dependants. However, this can only be sufficient time to deal with the urgent problems. Dependents include children, partners, parents, someone living in your house (who is not a lodger or an employee) or someone who relies on your such as a disabled neighbour or friend. Try to put the request in writing and get permission before hand.
If you are not being paid the usual amount of pay because of having to take time off, get a free benefits check either from Citizens Advice East Devon or online, and if you have children, you might find that you can get free school meals in the forms of food or supermarket vouchers during this time as well as help from local food banks many of whom run holiday schemes for hungry families.