POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Covid-19: flexibility to take care of sick child



The ministry of social security is taking a flexible approach: rather than an extension to family leave there will be a suspension of deducting the days of leave taken by parents of children who are covid-19 infected or suspected of being so. Shutterstock

The ministry of social security is taking a flexible approach: rather than an extension to family leave there will be a suspension of deducting the days of leave taken by parents of children who are covid-19 infected or suspected of being so. Shutterstock

If a child is infected or suspected of being infected with covid-19 and is placed in isolation or quarantine, the leave taken by a parent to care for the child will not be counted against their number of available family leave days.  

An important clarification, given that the traditional legal framework governing leave for family reasons had been restored in mid-July, prior to which extraordinary family leave had been made available (with no limit to the number of days) as part of the confinement strategy.

There is a limit to the number of days a parent can take leave for family reasons depending on the child's age: 12 days of leave per child if the child is age 0-3, inclusive; 18 days if the child is age 4-12, inclusive; 5 days if the child is hospitalised and between 13-17 years old, inclusive.

Extension or absence of deduction?

But as the start of the school year approaches, and with it the increased possibility of covid-19 infections amongst youngsters, with quarantine and isolation as a result, how will this impact the parents who have to look after them? 

It’s a question that has arisen since the law provides that the leave can be extended beyond the limit of days in three cases: if the child has a progressive cancer, if he or she must be hospitalised for more than two weeks, or if he or she is placed in quarantine in the broadest sense of the term. But does quarantine or isolation due to covid-19 fall count in that case?

The ministry of social security is not considering an extension, but quite simply a suspension of deducting the days of leave taken by parents of children who are covid-19 infected or suspected of being so--a more flexible way to allow parents to look after their children during this pandemic period.

In case of infection

In the event of infection of a child, leave for family reasons will usually not even apply. "People living in the same household have the right to see the positive person and are also put in quarantine by the directorate of health," explains the ministry of social security. This is usually the case with at least one of the parents.

Moreover, if a parent does not live in the same household as the infected child, “normally, the parent does not have the right to see their child, since the child has been placed in isolation to prevent the spread of anepidemic by the health authority,” said the ministry. "If [this parent] objects to this rule, it is the directorate of health that must decide on the measures to be taken. Leave for family reasons cannot come into play in this case since the child is already in the care of the other parent", and both parents cannot take the leave for family reasons at the same time. In fact, a parent can only use leave for family reasons if there are no other options for caring for the child.

In suspected cases

As the parent is placed in quarantine if his or her child is infected, leave for family reasons is therefore more appropriate if the child is only suspected of being infected, i.e., if the child has been in contact with a person who tested positive or had suspected symptoms.

If symptoms are suspected, the parent should ask their pediatrician to have the child tested. And, while awaiting the result of the test, the parent can take leave for family reasons, which will not be counted.

"In case of contact with a positive person, the child is quarantined by the directorate of health," warns the ministry. "If the parents are also quarantined--a decision made on a case-by-case basis by the directorate of health--then the parents receive a certificate of incapacity for work." If this certificate is not issued, one of the parents may be granted leave for family reasons, which will not be counted.

11% of infections at schools

Education minister Claude Meisch (DP) specified on Monday during a presentation that students in contact with another student who had tested positive could continue to return to class, remaining isolated from other students in the school, until tests are carried out, five days later (the average covid-19 incubation period)--a way to avoid transferring the burden of custody to the parents when the child is only suspected of being infected.

Leave for extraordinary family reasons is, therefore, (in effect, at least) “extended” for cases linked to covid-19. The government hopes the start of the new academic year will be as “normal” as possible, with cases in schools kept low. A study carried out in schools, the results of which were communicated on Monday by Meisch, is reassuring on this point--around 11% of infections apparently occur at school, whereas infections in the family environment represented 40% of the infections diagnosed in youngsters.

This article was originally published in French on Paperjam.lu and was translated and edited for Delano.