How to accommodate parents with childcare responsibilities

Shannen Lyons

February 19 2021

One way employers have been affected by prolonged COVID-19 restrictions is in accommodating working parents.

It’s a tricky situation that remains unpredictable. So, what can you do to help your employees who have childcare responsibilities?

What are an employer's options?

A lot of these restrictions focus on social measures to reduce community transmission. Employers are likely to face growing concerns in relation to employees with childcare responsibilities. Given that the normal institutions that look after children are mostly closed, this is certain to cause many headaches.

There are several different forms of authorised absence that can be explored between employers and employees, including:

  1. Furlough
  2. Parental Leave
  3. Annual leave
  4. Lay-off
  5. Flexible and remote working

Furlough can be used if there’s a decrease in the availability of work. However, consider with care if this will be the best option for your business. This is discretionary and needs an employer-employee agreement to proceed with.

Parental Leave is at the employee’s request. Parents can avail of up to 18 weeks of leave for a child under 18 years old. There’s no statutory requirement to pay for Parental Leave, but you should check your contract.

Annual leave can be requested by the employee during this time. It could be used if there was only a short-term need to make childcare arrangements. If there’s been a build-up of annual leave from 2020, this would be the perfect opportunity to use this up.

Lay-off can be used, but you should check that you have a policy for temporary shortages of work. If you have this in place, an employee can be placed in a period of temporary lay-off. It’s worth noting that employees will be entitled to up to five days of Statutory Guarantee Pay during this time. This is currently payable at £30 per day, or the daily rate if this is lower.

Flexible and remote working have become the new norm during the coronavirus pandemic, with many people across the country now working from their homes. If you can facilitate this, it’s worth considering whether it’s reasonable to expect your staff to conduct their work from home.

Employees should also be advised to remember that this is not time for them to care for their children ─ it’s still working time.

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