Coronavirus: employees obliged to look after their children?

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, classes are suspended in all schools in the kingdom of Belgium from Monday 16 March, for 3 weeks. As a result, some of your employees will have to take time off from work to look after their children.

What kind of leave can they 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 closure = compelling reason?

Collective labour agreement (CLA) No 45, which regulates leave for compelling reasons, does not mention school 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.

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.

More info on https://www.onem.be

And temporary unemployment due to force majeure?

In principle, the schools remain open and childcare is provided for. The day-nurseries also remain open.

Normally, a lack of childcare solution cannot be invoked as a reason for temporary unemployment due to force majeure. 

Only if it is clearly demonstrated that there was no childcare (e.g. the school would be materially unable to provide it) and the parent has no alternative (no teleworking possible, the partner cannot look after the children either, only grandparents or other persons of advanced age could intervene) could temporary unemployment due to force majeure be applied for.

 

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