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Aside from redundancy, our current most common question from employers is:
“I want to introduce part time furlough but some of my employees have childcare issues. What are my rights as an employer? Can they stay off work and remain on furlough when I need them here?”

The employee Guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme states:
“If you are unable to work, including from home, due to caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing … then your employer can continue to furlough you.”
Source: DirectGov

Unfortunately there is no direct yes or no answer. It depends (avoid the eye roll please!) on many factors but employees can’t just stay at home because the schools are closed and the weather’s going to brighten up this week.

If the day you require your employee to work is a normal working day and they have not made proper enquiries as to childcare, then you could be within your rights to force the employee to work. Our advice is to arrange a face-to-dace or zoom meeting with the employee (not a phone call) as this will set the correct tone. You then need to find out:
– what age are the children?
– does your partner work?
– what days?
– what hours?
– where?
– are the children back at school yet?
– which is the nursery they use?
– is the nursery open?
– do you ever rely on any other family members for childcare?
– if so, who? are they working and on what days? are you mixing with them? can they help?
– have you enquired as to a new nursery?

If the employee has not made proper arrangements or enquiries then you could well be within your rights to request them to work. Find out the details above and give us a call for a more definitive answer subject to your employee’s individual circumstances.