From the outset of Covid-19, many employers 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. 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.
- Allowing employees to take unpaid leave until they can return to work full or part-time.
I would encourage any employees affected by the lack of childcare to engage with their employer in the first instance to explore all options available to enable them to continue working. I would encourage employers to be as flexible and supportive as possible with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.
In circumstances where employers fail to consider any reasonable accommodations, employees may have recourse to pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) under the relevant legislation such as Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 or the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015.
If the employee has availed of an arrangement with their employer then that agreement should have regard to the issue of service.
If however they have left employment temporarily, then service would not accrue.