Working parents, need time off work during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are your rights

Working parents often showcase more commitment towards the job than their colleagues
Working parents often showcase more commitment towards the job than their colleagues

As President Ramaphosa announced schools will be closing early this week, on 18 March instead of 20 March, and parents are stressing about what to do with their kids during these longer holidays.

The issue is not just a few extra days this week, it's also the extra two weeks in April, as it was announced that schools will only re-open after the Easter weekend (10 - 13 April) - if the virus is under control by then.

Single parents, the self-employed, freelancers and hourly wage workers are understandably concerned.

Not to mention those parents who are doctors or nurses?

Working parents who have made arrangements including aftercare programs and daycare facilities are wondering if these will stay open in the weeks ahead (it's unlikely they will, so alternative arrangements must be made), and also where to find the extra fees for the extra days of care.

Others who have family such as grandparents who take care of the kids during the holidays are concerned about the health of these elderly caregivers, as the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus appears to be more serious in the older population. 

Must read: Coronavirus: Are the kids a risk to their grandparents?

Many parents are concerned that without childcare they will have to take time off work themselves, and while this might be okay for some who can take leave or even work from home, it's not an option for the majority. 

We've received messages from parents concerned about how they will provide for their kids if they're not able to work. 

The experts at LAW FOR ALL have some answers. See below for answers to some typical questions, and check Parent24 for our regular updates.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

Should you test positive for coronavirus, you will be quarantined at one of the local hospitals that have been assigned to respond mainly to the outbreak. This is necessary because the virus needs to be contained.

The NICD will also get in touch with anyone you have come into close contact within the week before you starting showing symptoms. These people will be advised to self-quarantine at their home for 14 days.

This means you won’t be able to leave your house, go to work and come into contact with anyone.  

What do I do about my job if I am put in isolation or required to self-quarantine because of COVID-19?

"As an employee in South Africa, The Basic Conditions of Employment Act protects your right to take sick leave. This means that if you get a medical certificate confirming the diagnosis stating that you have to be in isolation, you will be entitled to take sick leave," says Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director.

Keep in mind, you will only be able to return to work once you receive a medical certificate stating you are in the clear.

If for some reason, you are not issued with a certificate, your employer may require you get tested by a medical practitioner and to get a certificate clearing you to return to work.

What if my employer recommends that all employees self-quarantine?

If your boss decides to close the office or premises as a precautionary measure, and suggest employees work from home, then those days will not come out of your sick leave (unless you get a medical certificate confirming that you must be in quarantine).

It’s also possible for an employer to ask an employee to self-quarantine if they recently travelled to a high-risk area or start showing symptoms in the office. In this case, the employee will likely be put on special paid leave, depending on the nature of their work.

Sidenote: If you have already put in annual leave for an international holiday, and decide to go through with it, your boss cannot tell you to cancel your plans. But, they might require you to self-isolate for at least 14 days before returning to the office. 

Of course, not every employee can carry out their duties from home, so the employer will have to consider some kind of special paid leave, as the employee still needs to make a living.

"It’s important to remember that if you self-quarantine at your employer’s request and cannot do your work from home, it’s not legal for them to deduct those days as sick leave or annual leave," clarifies Nagtegaal.

However, should an employer want to avoid placing an employee on any form of leave and requires the employee to work from home, they must do their best to help make that possible for the employee. This could involve implementing specific measures or processes to help. 

What if I want to take precautionary measures? Would sick leave apply for voluntary quarantine?

In this case, sick leave would definitely not apply, since you are not ill and haven’t been issued a medical certificate.

If you do, for whatever reason, insist on voluntary quarantine, and you cannot complete your duties at home, unpaid or annual leave days might be deducted.

School and activities:

Coronavirus: Is it safe to take your kids to daycare, and other questions parents ask

Coronavirus: Will South African schools be closing, and what will that mean to parents?

Coronavirus: Is closing schools an effective measure to prevent an outbreak? History has some answers

PRINTABLE | CORONAVIRUS: Handwashing steps for young children and teens

What to tell the kids:

What to tell your kids about coronavirus, and how to help them stay safe

WATCH | Kids, learn how to wash your hands properly with these catchy tunes

Eight tips on what to tell your kids about coronavirus

Compiled for Parent24 by Elizabeth Mamacos

Chat back:

Tell us how you feel about all of this, from explaining the outbreak to your kids, to keeping them home from school for longer.

Anonymous contributions are welcome.

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4137 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5005 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.