Classes/schools closed: employees obliged to look after their children?

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)

Since the start of the new school year, the number of classes or schools that have to close as a result of coronavirus cases at school has increased sharply. As a result, some of your employees will have to take time off from work to look after their quarantined child.

Even though there are already calls for specific leave for employees in this situation (as the corona parental leave ends on 30 September 2020), there is currently no possibility of specifically suspending the employment contract for this particular circumstance.

What kind of leave can your employees take in such a situation?

Statutory leave, compensation of overtime hours, reduction in working time

With your permission, the employee can take statutory leave, compensate overtime hours or take working time reduction days.

Leave without pay

Also with your permission, the employee can take days of leave without pay.

Leave for compelling reasons

Leave for compelling reasons allows the employee to remain absent from work due to an "unforeseeable event, unrelated to the work, that requires the urgent and necessary intervention of the employee and this to the extent that the performance of the employment contract makes this intervention impossible".

School/class closure = compelling reason?

Collective labour agreement (CLA) No 45, which regulates leave for compelling reasons, does not mention school/class closure as a compelling reason. However, a provision in a collective labour agreement (in the sector or company) or in the employment regulations that apply in your company could provide for this. Otherwise, there is nothing to prevent you from granting it to your employees on the basis of an individual agreement.

How long? Paid?

This leave shall be granted for the time required, up to a maximum of 10 days per year. It is in principle unpaid, unless otherwise agreed.

‘Classic’ parental leave

Parental leave allows the employee to totally suspend or reduce work and to avail of an allowance from the National Employment Office, to take care of his child, as long as the child has not reached the age of 12 on the effective date of the leave.

Since 1 June 2019, the employee has the possibility, with your permission, to split the taking of full-time leave per week and the taking of half-time leave per month.

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And temporary unemployment due to force majeure?

Temporary unemployment due to force majeure can only be applied for if the employee himself has been placed in quarantine.

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It is therefore not possible to invoke this suspension of the employment contract for the employee who has to stay at home to look after his quarantined child.

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