Can employees take sick leave to care for dependants?Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 2 February 2018
Q: An employee has informed us that the parent is very ill and they are expecting that they will need to take sick leave to look after them. If they submit a sick leave for disability, is there any recourse for the employer that they already know this isn’t personal medical capability for their employee?
Scott: That’s a classic situation where, if an employee is so concerned about a dependent, should they really be in work? For the employer perspective - they know the employee is going to take it, but they want to get paid to look after their parents.
Seamus: I think that you have to go down to what the reason for the absence is. It’s difficult in the sense that if you have made a disclosure to your employer and whether you’re a dependent or a carer for them or what the situation is, ultimately I think this will probably come down to is there a sick line put in and what the sick line says. It’s very difficult to argue with what the doctor puts down.
I know that’s a bit of a weak argument in a sense of people, the view might be that people can go to the doctor and get a line off the GP for anything. But I think that you would naturally have a concern where there’s been a discussion about this and there’s maybe an abuse of the sickness policy happening. It’s a difficult one to raise with the employee also because it’s such a sensitive period if they have a parent that is gravely ill. You would like to think there certainly is a conversation that has to take place with the employee in relation to that.
Scott: A lot of it comes down to the relationship with the employer. You’ve got this problem. I’ve got no problem that was sick. You’d be worried about them. Though, maybe not so worried...
Seamus: If you felt the employee had to take those sorts of steps, there’s lots of compassionate employers out there that I would imagine that if an employee approached them and said, ‘I’m going to have to take time off because my parent or my son is gravely ill’, I would imagine there’s a lot of employers out there that will pay the employee for it. Strictly speaking, of course, if you make the request, there’s no entitlement to payment and they can also dip into their holiday payment in terms of that. So, it does kind of break down into the fundamentals of the relationship between the parties.
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