COVID–19 Working Parents Options At Level 4
Can working parents unable to work due to their children ask their employer to claim the wage subsidy for them?
An employer cannot pay the employee less than their ordinary pay without agreement from the employee. As long as they are an employee nothing stops them from asking the employer to claim the wage subsidy, though I’d say that it would be unusual for a company not to apply for the subsidy if they were eligible (and not applying could even point to predetermination in a dismissal process down the line).
Can they take sick leave?
Not if they or their child are not sick/injured. Section 65 of the Holidays Act states that an employee may take sick leave if a dependant is “sick or injured.” Nothing to stop parents from taking leave if their situation is causing stress though.
What other options do they have?
If an employee cannot carry out their duties for an extended period, employees could use up their annual leave entitlement to ensure they remain paid.
What can/should employers do to support them?
It would unlikely be reasonable for an employer to commence an incapacity process for an employee who cannot work due to childcare duties due to the lockdown. However if an employee cannot work at all for an extended period of time, it may be reasonable for an employer to discuss dropping the employee’s pay to 80%, (or to the wage subsidy amount if the impact on the business is too significant) for the period they are unable to work, or discuss the employee using annual leave entitlements to top up their usual salary.
Flexible working hours, or reduced hours, are other options that an employer could consider to support working parents. Employers should realise that these are not ordinary times, and employees are entitled to reasonable support and a safe and healthy working environment.
However these are not long-term solutions for say, a several-month long lockdown. Companies would begin restructuring as the financial bleeding from employee’s who cannot work may become too great.
If you are seeking any covid-19 legal advice or support for employees or employers, please get in contact.