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Update to Furlough Guidance – Parents and childcare

There has been an area of uncertainty regarding the eligibility of parents for furlough due to childcare issues. The HMRC updated its guidance on 5th January to clarify this following school closures amid the third lockdown.

Work from home

The Government Guidance states that you must work from home unless you cannot reasonably do so:

“Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Where people cannot work from home, employers should take steps to help employees avoid busy times and routes on public transport.”

Furlough for childcare

If employees can’t work from home because of their role, or if they are unable to work (including from home) due to their caring responsibilities including homeschooling because of school closures, they can be furloughed for this reason if eligible through the coronavirus job retention scheme.

It states that employers can (not must) furlough:

“Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed, if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:

  • are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance
  • have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household”

This is, however, at the employer’s discretion and will depend on the situation of the business itself. As an employer, you have several options to consider if an employee who has school children can’t come to work due to school closures. Read them here.

The furlough scheme was extended into a third phase from November until the end of March 2021, with another extension to 30 April 2021.