My employee has just told me that their child’s school has called and told them that they must take the child home, as they have become unwell with what could be flu-like symptoms. Do I have to let them go?

A.  In early 2023, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued advice that children should be kept home from school if they are feeling unwell as a result of an increase in Strep A, flu and covid cases. This is not government advice but merely guidance. This extends to considering sending children home if they become unwell at school. Therefore, there may be an increase in employees wanting to leave work to collect sick children.

Employees have the statutory right to take time off to care for those dependent on them. This is an unpaid right and is to be used in unexpected situations where their dependent is in need of urgent support, such as where they become unwell and need to leave school or have an accident. If the employee needs to, they can leave work under this right to provide immediate care to the dependent, and then make arrangements for further care. This does not give the right to an extended time off.

Due to this right, you should let this employee leave to collect their child. Ask them to keep you informed of what is happening, and to contact you when they know whether or not they expect to be in work tomorrow. Again, they do not need to be paid for this time.