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Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 June 2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (1105)

Aindrias Moynihan


1105. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the employment protections being considered or that are in place to ensure security and protection of employees’ employment in the private sector in which they cannot return to work due to no childcare service being available or having an underlying medical condition and in which the employer will not consider unpaid leave or other options; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8917/20]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

From the outset of Covid-19, many employers will have taken the initiative, in line with subsequent requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children who are not attending school or crèche, or other family members who have an underlying medical condition.  Employers have a general duty of care towards their workers and that care is often expressed in the form of negotiation, compromise and flexibility.  Some of the options to be considered for workers with caring responsibilities that preclude them from working their normal hours in the normal, pre-Covid, way include - 

- Offering paid compassionate leave,

- Allowing employees to work from home,

- Altering shifts, so that employees can coordinate caring between themselves and partners, or another person,

- Allowing employees to rearrange holidays,

- Allowing employees to rearrange parental leave, 

- Allowing employees to take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time etc.

I would continue to encourage any employees affected by the lack of childcare or who have an underlying medical condition to engage with their employer in the first instance with a view to exploring all options available to enable them to return to, or continue with, work.  I would encourage all employers to be as flexible and supportive as possible in the circumstances with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.

In circumstances where employers fail to consider any of the reasonable options, an employee may have recourse to pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 or the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 outlaw discrimination in a wide range of employment and employment-related areas.  These include recruitment and promotion; equal pay; working conditions; training or experience; dismissal and harassment (including sexual harassment).  The legislation defines discrimination as treating one person in a less favourable way than another person based on any of 9 grounds, including family status and disability.  The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 fall under the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.