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I am unable to work due to lack of childcare, what am I entitled to?

If you cannot go to work, or work from home, due to lack of child care there are supports available to you


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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If you are currently unable to go to work or work from home due to lack of childcare, there are payment options that you are entitled to from your employer and the Government. If you are unsure of what your best opinion is, speak to your employer about your current situation and discuss the options available to you.

Employers are expected to be flexible during these uncertain times and if you feel your employer is not giving you what you are entitled to, there are supports that can help. FLAC (The Free Legal Advice Centre) offer some basic legal assistance for free and is currently available to contact via phone on Lo-Call 1890 350 250 or 01 874 5690.

Employee Entitlements if you are unable to work (either from home or in the workplace) due to lack of childcare

Paid Force Majeure Leave

It may be possible to claim Force Majeure Leave and, if so, you should be paid as normal by your employer. Force Majeure Leave is usually only available “for urgent family reasons owing to accident/illness of an immediate relative, or of a person in a relationship of domestic dependency” with an employee. During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic employers are being asked by the Government to allow employees to take Force Majeure Leave even where they do not technically qualify under the legislation.

A maximum of five days Force Majeure Leave is allowed over the space of three years, with a maximum of three days in any one year. Your employer may be willing to allow you to take the full five days you are allowed during this crisis. It is important to remember that if you claim the full entitlement now, your employer may refuse a request for Force Majeure Leave if a dependant, such as your child or a parent, becomes sick over the next three years.

Paid Annual Leave

If you cannot work during the pandemic as you need to mind your child/children you could ask your employer to allow you to take annual leave. It is normally up to your employer when they allow you to take leave, but there is a legal obligation on an employer to recognise the need for their employee ‘to reconcile work and any family responsibilities’ when deciding on leave. This basically means your employer has to take into consideration the needs of your family when allowing you to take annual leave. If you work full time you are entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid annual leave per year, but you may have additional entitlements in your contract and may have also carried over unused annual leave from previous years that you can use now.

You earn annual leave over the time you have worked so by the end of March you will have built up (and should be able to take) at least one week of your annual leave for 2020. Your employer may also let you take “future” annual leave now. Your employer may insist you take annual leave during this period. Normally, they should speak with employees one month before expecting this. However, in the current circumstances if you don't want to take your annual leave your employer may give you the option of taking unpaid leave instead of paid annual leave. If you become sick while on leave, you may cancel the leave if it is medically certified.

Unpaid Parental Leave

If you are a parent, you are entitled to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after your children. You can take up to 22 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday. Normally, you have to have been in your job for at least a year by the date you want to take parental leave, but if you have a minimum of three months in the job by that date, you will be entitled to one week’s leave for each month you have worked there. If you become sick while on parental leave you can cancel it and go on sick leave instead.

Unpaid Leave

It is up to your employer if they will permit you to take general unpaid leave if you do not want to take paid annual leave to cover your absence.

Discretionary Paid leave

There is nothing to stop your employer continuing to pay you if you are not in work. However, this would be a “discretionary benefit”, meaning it is up to your employer whether they chose to give it, and may just be a temporary measure meaning your employer could stop paying you at any time.

Government Income Supports if you are unable to work (either from home or in the workplace) due to lack of childcare

Paid Parent’s Leave and Benefit Parent’s Leave is a new entitlement for parents to take two weeks leave in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child. It is available for children born or adopted after 1 November 2019. These two weeks can be taken separately or together. Each parent of a child may be entitled to be paid Parent’s Benefit for the two weeks while on Parent’s Leave.

Feeling overwhelmed or anxious around the current pandemic?

This situation is completely new to everyone involved and it is normal to feel worried or anxious about what is going on. Following the Government’s instructions on how to stay safe and help slow the spread of the virus, can help to make you feel more in control of your current situation.

If you feel overwhelmed by the current situation and need someone to talk to, our anonymous, 24 hour text line is always open. You're worth talking about and we're here to listen and support you.

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Published April 1st2020
Last updated Octo­ber 22nd2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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