Date Published: 02/09/2020
However, parents caring for a covid positive child or who test positive themselves will be entitled to paid leave from work.
The whole topic of children returning to school as the covid pandemic gains pace once again and case numbers rise to worrying levels, is high profile in the Spanish media this week, as schools prepare to welcome back pupils and parents and employers worry about the practicalities of trying to cope with the current situation.
The whole covid situation has been a major logistical challenge for some families, juggling jobs, finding family members and friends to cover childcare so that the financial commitments of having to work during the prolonged school break can be met, and it’s about to get more complicated, as although children are going back to school, they may not be there for long should classmates catch the virus.
It’s also an area of concern for employers, who need to juggle staffing cover and must also worry about the implications of having to pay staff members who need to take time off to care for a family member who are not actually doing the work they’re being paid for, work which must usually be covered by another employee. Of course, some businesses now can´t afford to pay another employee to cover, so there are implications all the way down the line.
One of the biggest grey areas for most working parents is how they are going to cope both financially and practically should their child be sent home to quarantine if another child within their tuition group tests positive, and the Spanish Ministry of Finance has finally cleared up some of the doubts.
Parents who do not themselves test positive in a PCR test but who have to stay at home to care for children who are in quarantine will not be able to request paid leave from work, the Minister of Finance and Government spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, explained this Tuesday.
These parents will only be able to apply for some financial aid from the ‘Mecuida’ plan run by the Ministry of Labour, and allows workers to have the right to flexibility to combine employment with the care of a relative, for example, doing shift work. At the moment the current plan expires on 22nd September and negotiations are reportedly underway between the Government, unions etc to extend the plan for the remainder of the autumn.
“If there is an unforeseen circumstance that requires the parents to stay at home, mechanisms will be sought to preserve the health of the minors and comply with health recommendations so that this general well-being allows us to favor the whole of society” Montero said, reminding parents that the social security system does provide for a “baja por incapacidad” which can be applied in these circumstances.
Parents caring for a child who tests positive for Covid-19 and who, therefore, will have to quarantine, will have right to paid leave from work.
Parents who test positive for coronavirus themselves will also have the right to paid leave.
“There are going to be different cases depending on the health situation,” Montero admitted, “and in the event that new circumstances arise that are not foreseen at this time and that require the parents to stay at home for any reason, they will be sought, as we have done during the entire pandemic, the mechanisms that make it possible to preserve the health of minors and comply with health recommendations”.
During the presentation of the exceptional measures for the 2020/2021 academic year, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, explained last week that if a case of coronavirus arises in a “bubble group” the whole group will quarantine; if the student is in a ‘normal’ group, only their close contacts will be required to confine themselves to their homes. And if the outbreak (more than three cases) breaks out in several classes, the educational or health authority of the region will decide what will happen. The complete closure of a school will only occur in “exceptional situations”, when the transmission of the virus is “uncontrolled” and “generalized”.
Some parents are trying to gain medical certification and not send their child back to school
There have been reports in the regional media that some parents have been trying to get medical certification that their child is unfit to return to school in an attempt to keep children at home.
Education is considered a “constitutional right” and it is a criminal offence to stop a child going to school, so therefore, parents could be penalised if it were proven that they are preventing their children from attending school.
All of which, means that the “Vuelta al cole” is going to be far from straightforward for most families this autumn.