Employment News

News added on 11.01.2021

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Coronavirus

Coronavirus: employees with childcare responsibilities

If you employ working parents who now need to provide childcare, what are your options?

Children of specified key workers and vulnerable children can still attend school, but all other children must stay at home. If this means that an employee can’t now come to work because of their childcare responsibilities, first consider allowing them to work from home, if they can do so effectively. For example, is the child old enough to be left unsupervised at home whilst the employee works? Is there sufficient work available to do from home, even if this means the employee agreeing to temporarily undertake alternative duties? Consider also whether you could informally agree a temporary flexible working arrangement so that the employee can fit homeworking around their childcare commitments, such as allowing for some work to be done in the evenings or at weekends, when the employee’s partner or a member of their extended household/support bubble may be available to provide childcare.

If the employee can’t work effectively from home, the other options to consider include:

  • full or flexible furlough - HMRC has updated its guidance to confirm that an employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they’re unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours, because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school closures
  • unpaid time off for dependants - all employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to take action to deal with an unexpected disruption in their childcare arrangements, which includes school closures. Normally, the amount of time off that an employee can take under this statutory right is no more than a couple of days, usually to arrange alternative care. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, tribunals are likely to be sympathetic to an employee’s need for more time off if they have no alternative care arrangements available to them
  • unpaid parental leave - employees who have been employed for at least one year and who are parents of a child under 18 can take up to four weeks’ unpaid parental leave per child in each year (up to a maximum of 18 weeks per child in total). Although the legislation generally requires them to give you 21 days’ notice of parental leave, you can waive this requirement
  • paid annual leave - the employee could use some of their annual leave entitlement to cover times when alternative childcare isn’t available.

The starting point is to consider whether it’s possible for the employee to work effectively from home. If it’s not, other options include furloughing the employee under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, allowing unpaid time off for dependants or unpaid parental leave, or approving a period of paid annual leave.

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