Pay for parents whose kids catch Covid

Parents whose children test positive for Covid-19 will be allowed to take time off work with pay to care for them on the same basis as if the employees themselves were off sick – but as yet it is not clear whether this will apply to kids forced to quarantine or who have symptoms but no confirmed diagnosis.
Government spokeswoman and Minister for the Treasury María Jesús Montero has said that parents would only be able to take paid ‘sick leave’ to care for their children when these have actually been diagnosed, although companies would be required to allow them unpaid leave if the kids were ordered to self-isolate due to having been in contact with a ‘positive’ or where they present signs compatible with the virus, such as a fever.
Unions and parents are piling on the pressure for this paid leave to cover quarantine and as-yet undiagnosed symptoms, saying they have no other way of caring for their children but cannot afford to take at least a fortnight off work without being paid.
Deputy president Pablo Iglesias – leader of coalition partner Podemos and husband of equality minister Irene Montero – has contradicted the treasury minister and said parents will be given paid leave if they have to stay at home to look after their children for anything in connection with Covid-19, whether or not the child has actually been tested and shown to be a positive case.
He points out that parents may be tempted, or even forced, to continue to send their children to school even in the event of a diagnosis within their close circle or even if they have a fever, unless they have some way of being able to stay at home with them without losing about half their monthly salary.
Naturally, where a child is a possible Covid-19 case, nobody else can be brought in to care for them due to the risk this entails – even if somebody else were, in fact, available to do so. And that ‘somebody’ is likely to be a grandparent, who could well be aged over 65 and therefore a high-risk case themselves.
María Jesús Montero points out, however, that if a child has to quarantine or has symptoms, the parent would also automatically have to self-isolate due to having been in close contact with the child – and where employees are, themselves, required to stay at home and away from other people, they are considered to be ‘off sick’ anyway, so will be paid.
She also adds that the decision as to whether or not a person is actively signed off sick – as opposed to calling in sick for a short period due to a brief incident of ill health – is always made by a doctor.
Parents being able to take unpaid leave, either being completely off work or reducing their hours, to care for sick children or kids who may or may not be infected with Covid-19 was enshrined in law months ago when the pandemic first hit Spain.
Also, parents automatically have the right to request a reduction in their working hours of up to 100 percent or to take a career break with their job protected – their salary being reduced in line with their shorter working hours – for childcare duties, whether or not their children are unwell.
As yet, the outcome of the debate is not clear.
For the moment, paid sick leave for parents is guaranteed where their child tests positive, at least – this may soon be extended to include child quarantine or undiagnosed symptoms in the near future, although as a child’s own self-isolation requirement will automatically need to extend to the parent or parents they live with, it may be that the family GP will also sign the parents off sick on this basis anyway.
Full back-to-school procedures have been drawn up by education minister Isabel Celaá, jointly with all regional governments and agreed upon almost unanimously, and Sra Celaá assures parents their kids could well be much safer in the classroom than outside it – stringent protection measures are in place on the premises, which may well be much stricter than those followed in other situations where children mix with social groups and family members.