The government has agreed on the conditions of a special parental leave for the continuing confinement.
The decision was taken yesterday by the council of ministers supplemented by the representatives of the parties outside the coalition, under the special powers granted by parliament to the administration of prime minister Sophie Wilmès.
The special parental leave applies to the parents of any child under the age of 12, and takes account of the fact that parents during the lockdown have been faced with the combination of child care and work – including working from home.
For parents working from home, the logistics are at least simple. For those working away from home, including those going back to work on Monday, the options are limited. Grandparents should be in isolation as the elderly are a vulnerable group. Dropping the kids off with other family members or friends would not be considered an essential journey.
Schools and crèches are available for child care, but parents may not wish to send their children there for fear of infection.
The solution lies in a paid period of parental leave, available between 1 May and 30 June, applicable retrospectively. The end of the period may be extended if circumstances require.
The leave must be part-time; for full-time workers, the leave may be half-time or for one whole day a week. For anyone working 80% or less, the leave is part-time only.
The leave is not a right. It is intended for employees only, not for the self-employed. And it requires the approval of the employer, who must be consulted three days before the leave is due to start.
The allowance paid for the leave period comes from the state; the amounts in question will be 25% higher than the rates paid for ordinary parental leave, said economy minister Nathalie Muylle (CD&V) on Sunday.
There is no age limit for parents with a child with a disability.