Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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986. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the position regarding full-time working parents who cannot leave their employment to care for children while there are no childcare options available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10790/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I understand that some workers and employers are in a difficult situation as a result of the temporary closure of schools and crèches.  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.  Employers have a general duty of care towards their workers and that care is often expressed in the form of negotiation, compromise and flexibility.

Statutory leave entitlements available for parents include maternity leave, adoptive leave, paternity leave, annual leave and parent’s leave.  Some of the options to be considered for workers with caring responsibilities might 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,

- Allowing employees to take unpaid leave until they can return to work full or part-time.

While employers cannot in principle be asked to keep paying or to keep in their employment workers who are not available to work for them, they are encouraged to be as supportive as possible in the circumstances with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.

Any employees affected by the lack of childcare are strongly encouraged 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 where possible.

In circumstances where employers fail to consider any reasonable accommodations during the temporary Covid period where schools and crèches are closed, an employee may potentially have recourse to pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) under the relevant legislation such as the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Payment of Wages Act or the Employment Equality Acts.  Complaints to the WRC are dealt with either by mediation or adjudication.  Further information on your potential options are available at www.workplacerelations.ie and their dedicated information helpline is at Tel: 059 9178990 or Lo Call: 1890 80 80 90.  The WRC website also contains extensive information on these matters.

The Government has put in place emergency financial supports including the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), which is administered by the Revenue Commissioners and allows employers to pay their employees during the current pandemic.  It is designed to maintain the employment relationship between employer and employee and thereby avoid redundancies.  If a person has left work or been forced to leave work and the employer is no longer paying their wages, they may potentially still qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), which is administered by my Department.  This Department also provides other financial supports and employment services to jobseekers through its Intreo centres.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy. 


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