The closure of schools in Scotland until at least the beginning of February (and longer in England) as a result of the latest lockdown announcement has led to pressure for working parents to be placed on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
The most recent change to the CJRS was in December 2020, when the CJRS was extended to the end of April 2021. As yet, there have been no further changes to the rules relating to eligibility and pay under the CJRS since yesterday’s announcement.
Employers can furlough employees with carer’s responsibilities in accordance with the CJRS however they are under no obligation to do so under the rules as they stand. The decision to furlough employees remains at the discretion of the employer. If there is still work to be performed, businesses may not be in a position to furlough employees and given they are required under the current rules to pay National Insurance and pension contributions the scheme can still cost businesses money.
Under the current rules, eligible employees can be furloughed for a minimum of 7 days and companies are still able to place employees on flexible furlough. Any employee can now be placed on furlough or flexible furlough as long as they were employed and on the payroll on 30th October 2020.
As an alternative to furlough, the following options may be available for employees who are parents:
- Use annual leave, subject to any notice requirements.
- Make a request for unpaid leave.
- Take emergency leave to look after dependents. Emergency leave is unpaid and available where an employee has to care for a child or other dependent.
- Make a request to use statutory parental leave. Statutory parental leave is unpaid and also subject to notice and eligibility requirements.
- Employees may also be entitled to other types of leave, either paid or unpaid, under their contract of employment or a workplace policy.
- Make a request for flexible working. For example, employees may be provided with further flexibility around start times and work patterns. Employers are entitled to refuse flexible working requests but should not do so unreasonably or on discriminatory grounds.
We understand this is a difficult time for businesses trying to manage the needs of the organisations with the new pressures on employees trying to balance work and childcare. If you would like any further advice on your options or on the CJRS, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
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