Childcare in coronavirus crisis: Three options to consider if you need to return to work

For those parents and guardians returning to work, many will be forced to juggle both their working responsibilities and their childcare. This is compounded by the fact many schools and nurseries remain closed, and family and friends are unable to help due to social distancing rules. Many people feel it absolutely necessary to remain at home to care for their children during this time, but are unsure what actions to take due to work commitments.


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Amid the crisis, Citizens Advice, the leading charity offering assistance to Britons, has offered tips on next steps to take when businesses begin to reopen.

This is a pressing issue for many parents and guardians who could be expected to resume work within the coming weeks.

One option for those struggling with childcare arrangements is to ask an employer to be furloughed.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) implemented by the government allows employers to be paid at 80 percent of their normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

This option could provide parents, guardians and carers with an income stream while they remain at home to care for their children.

Another option potentially available to employees is a flexible working arrangement.

If an employer dictates a person must work, there may be an opportunity to arrange a flexible pattern of working – for certain hours or on particular tasks.

It is important to note some employers may suggest workers take annual leave.

Finally, a third option may be to ask for unpaid leave until it becomes suitable for an employee to work again.

This could be upon the reopening of schools and nurseries, or the availability of a friend or family member to look after the children.

Unpaid leave can be requested with no fixed end date, and this is known as indefinite unpaid leave.

This form of leave allows for extended periods of time off to suit personal needs.

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Citizens Advice have told Britons pursuing this option to ask for the confirmation of leave in writing so employees have a record.

If an employer does not grant these three options, under the law, they must consider a certain amount of unpaid leave, but only for a limited time.

This could come in the form of parental leave, available to employees who have worked at a company for at least a year.

Parental leave allows four weeks’ leave per child each year, but employees can only take 18 weeks in total for the whole period until a child reaches 18.

In most cases, an employer must be told 21 days before the leave period, however some companies have more generous arrangements. 

Finally, time off for a dependent can be requested by employees, an unpaid arrangement which arises in emergencies or unexpected problems with a child.

Under the law, the time off has to be reasonable and an employee can only have enough time to deal with the urgent problem.

Citizens Advice also urge Britons to check whether they could be entitled to benefits as a result of a potentially decreased income. 

The organisation has been using its frontline advisers to offer individual assistance to those struggling with childcare arrangements.

Tracey Moss, Senior Employment Expert at Citizens Advice, said: “The thought of returning to work after being furloughed, while juggling childcare, can be a daunting prospect. This is particularly the case for parents who would usually rely on family and friends for support, but can’t at the moment due to social distancing guidance. 

“Parents and guardians who are struggling have a number of options. Anyone who is unsure of what to do can visit the Citizens Advice website for more information, and can speak to an adviser online or on the phone for more help.” 

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