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Will UK follow France in allowing employees to donate leave to those employees with a seriously ill child?

Interestingly France’s parliament has recently passed a law which would allow workers to donate their paid leave to colleagues with seriously ill children. The French case of Christophe Germain, a worker in the constituency of far-right MP Paul Salen, was given days off by colleagues to look after his son Mathys during his battle with cancer. This was done with the approval of his bosses and prompted inspiration for the Bill. Mr Germain’s colleagues donated 170 days paid leave whilst his son battled with the disease.

This is not the first time that the concept has been introduced. In other countries, for example Canada, a parent can take up to 37 weeks off work if their child is critically ill, though the employer is not required to pay the worker during that period of leave. Instead, in Canada, an individual would have to apply for Employment Insurance for special benefits for Parents of Critically Ill Children (PCIC), which the Canadian Federal government announced in 2012.

There are social and economic benefits to schemes adopted in France and Canada which arguably the UK should take some notice of. Without an official scheme the decision to give up work to care for a child suffering from a life-threatening illness weighs heavily on parents. It often leads to one parent staying in full time work whilst the other cares for the child and co-ordinates all the service providers. The cost of medications, hospital, parking and equipment also continue to increase in many jurisdictions. Allowing people to donate their days off to colleagues in such situations could be enormously helpful for the parents of the child.

There is the added benefit that if the workplace is supportive, it totally changes the experience of the child’s death for the family. It enables the parents to enjoy the final days and minutes they have with their child without the other obvious day to day pressures coming into play as much. Parents who do not have a supportive employer often find that they have to cope with the pressure of making ends meet, particularly if one parent stops working just as they are coping with what is likely to be the most difficult time in their life.

The concept appears logical and it is a method by which people in the workplace can come together and do something to help colleagues in hard times. For the employer there would be no cost to them aside from administration.

Returning to France, perhaps surprisingly there was not unanimous support for this Bill. The left wing of French politics stated that while being portrayed as a generous legislative provision, a hidden side effect could be that employers may come to feel freed from their responsibilities and could create “intolerable situations of injustice between those who can collect days and those who cannot”.  

There would also be a potential floodgates issue, in that once gifting holidays between staff becomes the norm, there could be scope for abuse; for example a worker could be bullied and harassed by other colleagues into signing over their holidays. Further, there is the question of once gifting was permitted for sick children of colleagues, where would the line be drawn? If introduced, it is likely there would eventually be no such line, arguments of reverse discrimination would abound if there were.

Such legislation would arguably change the working landscape quite radically and would transform the annual leave of workers into a form of currency in the workplace. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), a worker cannot ‘sell’ their holidays back to an employer, it is unlawful to do so. It is likely then that an amendment to the WTR would also be needed in order to implement such legislation.

The move to introduce such a scheme in the UK may well be met with overwhelming support from the public. However, the concept has not yet reached the UK parliamentary system so time will tell if they adopt a similar scheme. 

If you have an issue relating to annual leave and sick dependents, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk

Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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