Speaking this afternoon Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment, and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has called for the Government to clarify the situation for parents who may have to take time off work to mind a schoolchild who gets Covid-19 or has to self-isolate.
She called on the Government to look at the wide expansion of force majeure leave to allow parents to take paid time off to look after schoolchildren self-isolating.
“In the midst of the conflicting nature of some of the new restrictions, and the confusion around the reopening of schools, many parents remain worried and concerned about how they will manage to take time off work to mind schoolchildren who contract Covid-19, or who must self-isolate after a positive case in their class.
“Countless parents have contacted me in recent days saying they do not know if they can use sick pay to take time off, if they can access paid leave, or if they can access illness benefit for the time they will have to take off work to mind their children if they have to self-isolate from school.
“There has been no clarity from government in this regard, despite many schools returning next week.
“This matter is a workers’ rights issue and it needs the urgent attention of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Leo Varadkar.
“The Tánaiste needs to hold discussions with his colleagues about how workers, who are parents, will manage time off from work to mind their children if they have to self-isolate from school.
“To my mind, a wide expansion of force majeure leave would allow parents take paid time off to look after schoolchildren self-isolating.
“Force majeure leave allows a worker, for urgent family reasons, to take time off owing to an injury or illness of a close family member. If this leave is expanded then this will allow parents to take paid time off to look after children with, or self-isolating from, Covid-19.
“In instances where a microbusiness or an SME cannot afford to sustain paid force majeure leave to working parents minding self-isolating schoolchildren, the state should pay a contribution towards the workers’ force majeure leave.
“The most important thing is that parents are given clarity before children are back in classrooms.
“We cannot have a situation where cases of Covid-19 arise in schools and parents are left taking unpaid leave to look after their self-isolating children.
“Parents need clarity and they need it now.”