Under the parental leave legislation employees have a limited right to paid leave from work for urgent family reasons when the immediate presence of an employee is indispensable owing to an injury or illness of a close family member. This is called force majeure leave.
A close family member is defined in the legislation as:
- Child or adopted child;
- Spouse or person with whom the employee is living with as husband or wife;
- Parent or grandparent;
- Person to whom employee has duty of care (acting in loco parentis); or
- A person in a relationship of domestic dependency including same sex partners.
The maximum amount of leave available is 3 days in any 12 month period or 5 days in a 36 month period and is only available in respect of the family members provided for in the legislation.
By its very nature force majeure leave cannot be applied for in advance and employees are required to notify their employer as soon as is reasonably practical that they need to avail of force majeure leave and must apply in writing as soon as back at work with relevant details of why leave was required and the relationship with the ill/injured person.
Force Majeure leave is only intended for unplanned emergency type situations and attendance at pre-arranged hospital appointments (even in respect of a serious illness) does not qualify for paid force majeure leave nor situations where employees need to stay at home from work with children who have normal childhood illnesses. Additionally, leave should only be granted for the necessary period where the employees presence is necessary and not automatically for the total entitlement available.