I was okay working from home but now the schools are closed and it’s chaos at home. It’s impossible to work and my boss says I can’t get paid. It’s not my fault. Is this right?

The government have now updated their advice on the coronavirus job retention scheme to include parents unable to work due to childcare commitments. This means that parents can request to be ‘furloughed’ by their employer, and receive 80% of their salary (up to a max of £2,500 per month) through the government while they remain off from work. The ‘furlough’ period is currently only running until the end of May 2020, but this may be extended.

Please bear in mind that ‘furloughing’ is done at the employer’s discretion, and some employers will not be able to pay the money until they receive it, which may not be until the end of the period. More info: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

This could become the hottest potato for government because bosses don’t have to pay staff who cannot work due to childcare. According to ACAS, parents can only request unpaid leave to remain home for childcare reasons unless their contract says otherwise. So the starting point has to be: Check your contract. Unpaid leave for this will seem unfair to millions because this is not a normal situation – these are not school holidays.

But employers will also resist picking up the cost of staff who don’t work. That said, it is against the law for them to be seen to treat parents differently from staff without kids. If employed for more than half a year, workers are entitled to request ‘flexible working request’, see ACAS advice.

You could ask to move working hours to fit around your children’s needs or request to go part-time. The employer does not have to agree to this if it is too disruptive to their day-to-day business. Keep watching the government web page here on benefits available to people who are unable to work because of Coronavirus. They might be forced to offer support to parents in this position. Single parents might find Gingerbread useful for advice.

Further government information on taking time off for dependants here: https://www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants

Updated 8/4/2020