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Will I get paid if my child is sent home from school because of virus?

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Parents were given advance warnings that there would be outbreaks of the virus in schools but there hasn't been much talk about how they will cope financially if their child is sent home.

Am I entitled to sick pay if I stay at home to mind my child?

No. You cannot claim sick pay unless you are unwell.

 

So I won't be paid?

Perhaps not. If you employer's business is on the brink or they are depending on supports like the wage subsidy scheme, they may refuse to pay unless you are available for work.

However, many employers are likely to examine other options.

Employees who are already working from home may reach agreement that they combine caring for their children with working.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said many employers can, and do, agree compassionate-leave arrangements with staff, and it has requested that they are as flexible as possible with parents and those with childcare responsibilities.

It said this could include altering shifts "so that employees can co-ordinate caring between themselves and partners or another person".

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Are there many options if the employer will not make compassionate leave arrangements?

Workers can fall back on statutory entitlements other than annual leave - but these can have serious limitations.

Force majeure leave is available for a family crisis. But parents can only apply for a maximum of three days in a 12-month period. It would not cover 14 days at home.

Parental leave has been increased to 26 weeks up to a child's 12th birthday, but unlike paternity leave, for which there is a social welfare payment, it is unpaid.

Parents are also expected to give employers at least six weeks' notice under legislation.

 

Would the parents of schoolchildren who are sent home qualify for the State's enhanced illness benefit?

It does not appear that they can. When asked, the Department did not give a yes or no answer. It said the payment is available to those diagnosed with the virus or someone who is a "probable source of infection of Covid-19 and is self-isolating".

However, the HSE indicated that parents are not required to self-isolate when their children are sent home from school due to Covid-19.

The department said any person experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for other supports including a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance scheme. This includes an urgent-needs payment.

 

Will this be a problem?

Employment law solicitor Richard Grogan called on the Government to extend the enhanced illness payment to parents whose children are sent home from school due to the virus.

"A parent of a child who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 will probably get social welfare as they may come under the category of a probable risk, but the problem is the parent of the child in the pod who is sent home for 14 days," he said.

He added: "There is little support for the parent who has to go out to work, and getting the grandparents to mind the children is not an option. Many employers can't afford to pay for 14 days, especially if some schools may have multiple cases."

 

How much is the enhanced illness benefit worth?

It is a State benefit worth €350 a week and all workers and self-employed people can apply. Those who are a "probable source of infection" can receive the payment for up to two weeks. Those diagnosed with Covid-19 can receive the payment for up to 10 weeks "subject to ongoing certification and eligibility".

The Government has extended the scheme until March 31 next year.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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