Furlough for Childcare
The Prime Minister has announced that from 5 January 2021 all schools in England would be closed, save for vulnerable children and children of key workers. This means a lot of parents and carers will once again have to juggle childcare, home learning and working, whether from home or not.
In light of this, The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has strongly urged employers to agree to requests from employees to be placed on furlough for childcare reasons.
Whilst employers have no legal obligation to agree to any request from an employee to furlough them, the TUC recommends that they do so, citing its own research showing that during the first Lockdown in March 2020, one in six working mothers had to reduce their hours because of school and nursery closures.
To be eligible for furlough, the employee must have been on the payroll as of 30 October 2020, or 23 September 2020 if they have been rehired and placed on furlough after termination of their employment.
With the current lockdown and school closures due to last until at least the middle of February, being placed on furlough may not be the most attractive resolution for employees who are struggling to juggle childcare and work. There are other ways to help take the strain of the new lockdown off employees such as flexible working arrangements, emergency time off, unpaid parental leave and taking annual leave.
Employers need to remember that the furlough scheme is an option that can be used for employees who need time off for childcare, not just those employees who have seen a drastic reduction in their workload due to Covid-19. Ultimately the final decision whether to furlough is with the employer based on the needs of the business, but they may be well advised to consider this option in order to ensure both staff morale and retention.