Legislative provisions for carers’ leave in case of a sick child or other close relatives

Author: Marta Antonova
Image: CDC@cdc , unsplash.com

Тwo years ago, on 2nd August 2019, a new piece of European legislation came into force: European Directive 2019/1158, or the Directive on Work-Life Balance for parents and carers. While the main focus of the Directive is the reduction of gender imbalance in the workforce and providing the foundations for building more flexible working arrangements, some of its aspects prove interesting from a healthcare perspective as well. 

Its main legislative elements address the rights of fathers to paternity leave, in order to also spend time with their new-born children; the rights of parents to define a flexible working model best-suited to their off-work needs, such as family and downtime; and, last but not least – the need for a universal minimal standard of rights for those having to take time off work in order to care for a sick loved one. While many countries have already established some similar procedures, often those only cover the cases in which a parent cares for their child. 

Directive 2019/1158 now mandates that a minimum of five workdays per year have to be granted to an employee caring for any close relative or person living in the same household.  The Directive also includes non-legislative policy measures to protect carers and parents from discrimination and dismissal. Their right to request flexible working arrangements also has to be ensured. [1]

The Directive will become part of the national laws of all EU member states by 2nd August 2022.

On the second anniversary of the Directive entering into force, we are taking a look at how several European countries are currently regulating carer’s leave.

Despite being geographically and economically close, the seven countries we’ll look at demonstrate just how variant the approaches can be.


According to §16 Leave Law (§16 Urlaubsgesetz) employees are entitled to paid leave in order to care for a sick immediate relative. The available period corresponds to one work week per year. One additional week per year is available in case the sick relative is a child under the age of 12. Employees who have used their available days are still entitled to leave, albeit unpaid, as long as they (or their relative) fulfill the requirements. [2]


Еmployees are entitled to paid leave in order to care for their sick child (or, in some cases, their grandchild). The leave amounts to three days per child and case of sickness for children up to 15 years of age. In case the child remains sick after the initial three days and no alternative childcare option is available, the employee is entitled to further leave. The overall duration of paid sick leave is a sum of the own sick days and those taken to care for a child and depends on the duration and type of employment contract, on the time the employee has been employed by the same company as well as the regional scale applied (so-called Basler, Berner or Zürcher Skala). [3]


Employees are entitled to paid sick leave in order to care for a sick child under the age of 12 as well as for older children with disabilities or in palliative care. The available period is 10 days per child or a maximum of 25 days per year. For single parents, the periods are 20 and 50 days, respectively. The health insurance provider of the employee is responsible for the payments. Employees who have used their available days or don’t have a valid health insurance are entitled to unpaid leave if they (or their child) fulfil the requirements. [4]


Every employee is eligible for an unpaid leave (Congé de présence parentale) to care for a sick child under the age of 16 years. Legally, periods of leave cannot exceed three days per year (or five days in specific cases), but this is a minimum and most collective agreements have special arrangements. For example in the public sector employees can take 14 days a year to care for a sick child.

 In cases of a serious disability or illness of a  child under  20  years,  every employee with at least one year of employment with an employer is entitled to paid leave to care for their child,  or to work part-time, for a period of up to three years. The allowance is paid for a maximum of  310  days over the three years period.

 The level of the allowance depends on the duration of employment and the family structure –  in couples,  the amount is €43.01 per day if one parent stops work completely; and €51.11 for a single parent.  A similar period of leave is possible for employees who need to care for a child or parent at the end of life living in the same household 

Additionally, all employees of all companies, regardless of their size, can donate days off to a colleague if their employer agrees. [5,6]

The Netherlands

Emergency leave and other short absence leave is intended for unforeseen personal circumstances for which an employee has to take time off immediately, for instance, when making arrangements for the care of a sick family member or in the event of a death in the family. The employer must always grant a reasonable request for emergency leave and is required to continue paying the employee’s salary.

Short-term care leave can be taken to provide essential care to parents, ill children who still live at home or partners. However, this leave is only granted on the condition that the employee in question is the only person who can look after the ill person at that moment in time. During the period of leave, the employer continues to pay 70% of the employee’s salary (but no less than minimum wage). 

If a child, partner or parent is seriously (i.e. life-threateningly) ill and requires care, the employee can request unpaid long-term care leave. [7]


Employees can receive compensation for caring for a sick child from the day when the child is 8 months old (regular parental benefits available) up until the day before the child turns 12, for a maximum of 120 days per child every year.  The compensation for caring for a sick child is a little less than 80% of the employee‘s regular income, but there is a maximum limit. The compensation covers instances where the employee stays home from work; accompanies the child to the doctor, children’s health centre, dentist, or child and adolescent psychiatric services; is home with the child because the ordinary caregiver is sick; is participating in a course arranged by a healthcare provider in order to learn how to care for the child. 

Employees can receive compensation for the care of a child who is older than 12 but younger than 16 if the child needs more help than usual at that age. This may apply, for example, if the child needs to be accompanied to a doctor’s appointment or if an otherwise healthy child becomes sick and cannot manage by themselves. 

Parents of a seriously ill child up to the age of 18 can receive compensation for an unlimited number of days if there is a distinct threat to the child’s life or if the child, receives treatment for a life-threatening  illness and the child’s life is in jeopardy without this treatment. If the child is seriously ill, both of the parents have the right to compensation for the same child and time for an unlimited number of days. [8]

United Kingdom

Employees are allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on the employee for care. The employee is allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there’s no set amount of time as it depends on the situation. There are no limits on how many times an employee can take time off for dependants. The employer may pay for time off to look after dependants but there is no legislative requirement. This is instead contractually regulated. [9]


Employees are entitled to an allowance for temporary incapacity for work when they have to care for sick family members, such as their children and parents, and their spouse. The daily compensation for temporary incapacity for work due to general illness is calculated at the rate of 80% of the average (daily) gross wage or the average (daily) social security income. 

Up to 10 calendar days per insured person per year are paid for the care or urgent accompaniment for medical examination, examination or treatment at home or abroad of a sick family member over 18 years of age.

For children (up to the age of 18), up to 60 calendar days per year are due to any insured family member fulfilling the following actions: the care or urgent accompaniment for medical examination, examination or treatment at home or abroad; for the care of a sick child under quarantine or of a healthy child sent home from kindergarten or school due to quarantine – until the expiry of the quarantine period; for the care of a sick child up to 3 years of age placed in a hospital care institution together with the insured – for the time the insured (carer) was in the hospital with the child. The compensation is also paid for the care of a child placed with relatives or a foster family.

For the care of a chronically ill family member, compensation is only available if the illness is exacerbated.

[1] §36 (3) Labour Law (Art. 36 Abs. 3 ArG)
[2] §324a of the Swiss Code of Obligations (Art. 324a OR). §324a of the Swiss Code of Obligations (Art. 324a OR) is also the legal basis for continuing to receive the regular salary, albeit with many stipulations compelling the employee to take all possible measures in order to return to work as soon as possible.
[3] §45 Social Code Book V (§45 SGB V) and §616 Civil Code (§616 BGB)
[4] Labour Code (Art. L. 1225-61, 1225-62)
[5] Law No. 2014-459 of May 9, 2014 for the gifting of days off to a parent of a seriously ill child
[6] Social Security Code of the Republic of Bulgaria, art. 45
[6] Social Security Code of the Republic of Bulgaria, art. 41