Furlough: Can I still be furloughed if I can’t return to work due to childcare?

Children across the UK are currently home from school due to the coronavirus pandemic. People have been advised to work from home wherever possible, but the Government has recently eased some of the UK lockdown restrictions. Express.co.uk spoke to employment experts about balancing returning to work and childcare commitments.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK will gradually start to ease some lockdown restrictions as of this week.

In addition to changes to exercise and social interaction, the Prime Minister also announced a number of changes to employment guidelines.

Now people who cannot work from home are being encouraged to return to work if possible.


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People are being advised to avoid public transport, and instead walk, cycle or drive to work in their own cars.

But the Government’s decision to encourage people to go back to work has caused frustration for some employees.

With schools still closed, many people who previously may have been able to return to work now have obligations to look after their children.

Parents are also hampered by the lack of available childcare presently, as childcare services have been significantly reduced due to the risk of COVID-19.

Can I still be furloughed if I can’t work due to childcare?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in Parliament this week that the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme will be extended.

This means employers can continue to furlough staff until October 2020.

Under the scheme, the Government will pay 80 percent of an employee’s wages, capped at £2,500 a month.


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Simon Mayberry, Senior Associate at LexLeyton said “employees can always ask their employers to remain on furlough” while the scheme is in place.

Mr Mayberry added: “However, in the vast majority of cases the power to decide whether an employee remains on furlough lies with the employer.

“Given the extenuating circumstances, it is unlikely that many employers will want to force an employee to return to work where they have no childcare and the best approach here would be an open conversation between employer and employee to reach agreement.

“For example, it may be possible for the employee to work from home or to work reduced hours to take advantage of any limited childcare they may be able to access.

“In normal times, where an employee cannot work due to childcare, they can take advantage of a limited amount of unpaid time off for dependants – this time allows the employee to put in place alternative arrangements.

“Currently, there is a real lack of childcare available, so more imaginative solutions may be necessary.”

Jennifer Smith, Employment Law Partner at JMW Solicitors, said: “An employer can ask staff with children to return to work, however it may not be possible for a variety of reasons.

“To make the process as easy and pleasant as possible, employers and employees should consider several steps – talk to each other early on about time off that might be needed, agree regular conversations so that both can plan ahead, and agree flexible working instead of taking longer periods of time off, for example working from home or changing working hours to allow for childcare.

“If any agreement is made, it’s a good idea for it to be in writing.”

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