Update as of 19 March 2020
The decision of the Government to close all schools for the foreseeable future may have an impact on the ability of some of your staff (particularly parents and carers of young children) to work their normal hours. In particular, it is noted that the Government advice has been that grandparents do not care for school-aged children for the time being due to the elderly being more vulnerable to the extreme symptoms of the Coronavirus.
We recommend that you aim to be as flexible and generous as is possible given the current exceptional situation. The current situation may change further over the next few weeks and it will take some time for staff affected by the closure of schools to work out what is best for them.
We recommend that, where possible you give your staff with children affected some time to find a pattern of working that works for you, your staff member and their family. Any arrangements that are put in place, albeit on a temporary basis will need to be sustainable for the foreseeable future. Encourage them to talk with you to let you know what they are proposing to do and to agree with them any priority work that will need to be covered. You could suggest a timescale (eg the end of March) for them to discuss and agree with you any revised working arrangements. Continue to have regular contact with your staff regarding not only their current working plans and priorities but also longer term plans.
In summary, identify possible options for consideration with affected staff members. These could include:
- Changes to their set working hours to enable them to undertake childcare at times when they are not working. Acknowledge that they may need to speak with partners etc who may support them with their childcare arrangements. Could their hours be split? The key issue is that they should be agreed with their line manager, they should be made known to others eg parish congregation as required and they should be subject to review if they are not working well for either you or them. They will be expected to deliver their full range of responsibilities that have been agreed albeit within more flexibly agreed arrangements.
- That you agree with them a reduction in the number of hours worked due to the fact that, even having looked at flexibility options to spread their hours, they do not feel they can fulfil their key work responsibilities. In this case, as well as a reduction on working hours, their pay may also be reduced, albeit on a temporary basis. They will also need to agree with you what work they will or will not be doing, what are their essential responsibilities, what their manager may need to reallocate to others, or what simply may have to cease or be postponed.
- Take some annual leave – they could opt to take some annual leave, however the current situation may last for some time, and therefore this option is likely to only be feasible in conjunction with the other options described. If they do take annual leave for these purposes, it needs to be agreed with their manager in the normal way.
- Take some unpaid leave – everyone is entitled to take time off in an emergency to care for family and dependents https://www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants. An emergency is something that could not have reasonably been foreseen. They are allowed to take-off a reasonable amount of time to deal with the emergency – this is usually considered to be for example, either to take someone to hospital (in an emergency but not a planned appointment) or to put other care arrangements in place. There is no set amount of time as it depends on the situation but it would ordinarily be just 2 or 3 days. The key here is that this time is unpaid. If you have a parish Special Leave Policy refer them to that however, in the current exceptional circumstances, be prepared if at all possible, to extend periods of special leave (which would normally be unpaid). You may wish to review this depending upon the duration of school closures.
- Or you might agree a combination of the above.
Do keep any changes under review to ensure they are working for both you and your member of staff. They do need to be sustainable for both although they will return to normal as soon as the current situation allows.