1. We have staff currently on family leave (maternity, adoption or shared parental leave) and they wish to support us during the pandemic and return to work. What are their options?
Where staff are willing to support organisations during the pandemic and work during a period of parental leave, the options employers could consider are set out below.
In any case, employers will need to comply with Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and carry out a risk assessment for any employee returning from a period of maternity leave, in particular mothers who are breastfeeding. Appropriate facilities will also need to be provided.
i. KIT or SPLiT days
Employees are able to access ten keeping in touch (KIT) days during a period of maternity or adoption leave, or 20 shared parental leave in touch (SPLiT) days during a period of shared parental leave, without bringing their leave to an end. Employers would need to ensure that payment of any KIT or SPLiT days are made in line with the NHS terms and conditions handbook (section 15) and are reminded that working for part of any day counts as one KIT/SPLiT day.
ii. Temporary suspension of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave
In agreement with the employee, the temporary contractual suspension of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave and pay could be considered. Where this is mutually agreed, this will end any remaining statutory entitlements. The employer would need to make up any loss of entitlement as part of extending the contractual entitlement. No member of staff should suffer a detriment if they choose this option.
On resumption of contractual maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, the remaining entitlement will need to be reinstated. Any lost statutory entitlement will need to be made up and you will need to liaise with ESR around the technicalities of how this will work.
2. We have received an application for shared parental leave and the employee has requested a number of discontinuous blocks of leave. Given the current climate, this will be more difficult to backfill. Do we have to approve this request?
No, employers are not bound to agree requested patterns of leave; however, the employee cannot be prevented from taking the amount of leave that they have requested within the notice. Section 15 of the NHS terms and conditions handbook advises how these applications can be managed.
1. What do we pay staff who are looking after relatives, such as their children as a result of school closures or their relatives as a result of a breakdown in caring arrangements, due to COVID-19?
Where staff are not self-isolating but are absent from work to look after their relatives, employers would need to refer to their local policies and procedures to determine pay. Employers are encouraged to be as supportive as possible when considering flexible working options but to balance this against the needs of the service at that time.
2. A member of staff has confirmed that their care arrangements for an adult dependant have fallen through and they are struggling to make alternative care arrangements, what should we do?
Employers should follow their own existing carer’s leave policies, being flexible wherever possible, while balancing the needs of the service at that point in time
Employers should review their approach within the ICS/STP regional footprint to ensure consistency of regional approach.
3. A member of staff has requested bereavement leave, what should we do?
There are national terms for the bereavement of a child at section 23 of the NHS terms and conditions handbook. For a bereavement other than that of a child, employers will already have local bereavement leave policies in place.
However, for any bereavement, not just COVID-19 related, trusts should be as supportive as possible given the consequences and challenges for staff that, for example, may need to arrange a funeral.
Employers may wish to speak with their neighbouring trusts about their local bereavement policies in cases where staff suffer the loss of a family member or close friend. This may help identify whether local policies are broadly consistent.