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My employee is off work due to childcare issues now the schools are shut - do I have to pay them?

The announcement from the Government that the schools in the UK have closed for an unknown period brings even more turbulent times to businesses.

If your employee is off because a member of their household is symptomatic or has a confirmed coronavirus case, you should pay SSP for a maximum of 14 days. If you are a business of less than 250 employees you will be able to reclaim this from the Government in due course via a scheme, the details of which are yet to be announced.

If however, your employee is off work because they have no childcare, unless there is a clause in their contract or in your employee handbook that they should be paid, you do not have to pay them.

You do however have to allow reasonable time off, given the circumstances.  I suggest finding out how old the child (or children) are and considering (depending on the circumstances) whether it is possible for the employee to work from home - give a thought as to whether the children are able to be present whilst the parent is working without requiring substantial or constant attention (such as with younger children).

Consider what reasonable arrangements could be agreed upon, given that “we are all in this together”.

If your employee is deemed as a ‘critical worker’ a school place should be made available for their child(ren). You may need to provide evidence that your firm is on the approved business list.

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed.  For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.  HOWEVER, you don’t have to furlough them – it is absolutely the employer’s choice as to whether to furlough a member of staff or not.

Speak to me if you would like to discuss specific scenarios and get my advice and recommendations.


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