Boris Johnson has been criticised recently for his supposed last minute changes on school openings. The Prime Minister has now closed many schools across the UK and this will leave hardpressed parents struggling but employment and furlough guidance has been issued by Martin Lewis in light of the changes.
This last minute change will be difficult for parents who are already struggling with their own financial burdens but Martin Lewis provided insight on what can be done today on 5Live.
Martin detailed: “Schools are shut for most. It is important to understand that employees can be furloughed if your firm is furloughing to look after their children so if you can’t work from home, but can’t go to work due to childcare responsibilities, I’ve had it confirm that it’s legal and I would say desirable, though not compulsory for employers to furlough you.
“If you can’t be furloughed, or they won’t furlough you, then legally you have the right to take time off if needed to look after a dependent, so you can’t be disciplined for that as long as it’s organised.
“But sadly, you don’t have the right to be paid for it. It’s worth remembering too that furlough these days is flexible.
“So, whether it’s your following for childcare worker just because you can’t work, if there is some work that you can do, let’s say you normally work 35 hours a week, but you can only do 10 hours a week, you can be furloughed for 25 hours on 80 percent of your pay up to up to the limits and your employer will then give you your full salary for the hours that you work so there are ways that you can work this around.”
Stephen Moore, an Employment Partner at Ashfords LLP, provided further clarity on the specific laws involved, noting the potential options available with furlough plans: “School closures will place significant pressures on employees required to balance work and childcare commitments over the upcoming months.
“Calls have been made for employees unable to seek childcare to be placed on furlough. “Provided employees meet the eligibility criteria, they could be placed on furlough on this basis and should seek to discuss their situation with their employer.
“Employers should listen to and consider the individual needs of employees but also consider their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and avoid any potential discrimination claims.”
Stephen warned however that utilising this option may be more easier said than done: “Ultimately it’s an employer’s decision whether or not to furlough staff and an employer will be considering the needs of the business during this time.
“Employers are capable of turning down requests by employees to be placed on furlough.
“In this instance, employees could seek to come to some other arrangement with their employer such as flexible working hours, a reduction in hours or sharing workloads between staff.
“Under s57A Employment Rights Act 1996 employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off where necessary to care for a dependent.
“If an employer fails to meet its obligations under s57A, the employee could bring a claim in the employment tribunal.”
In late 2020, Rishi Sunak extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furlough payments can now be utilised into April 2021.
Employers can no longer submit claims for periods ending on or before October 31 and claims for furlough days in December must be made by January 14.