March 30, 2020

COVID-19 School Closures | Key issues for Employers

Schools (including sixth form colleges and pre-school settings) are closed for the foreseeable future for 90% of pupils.

Schools were becoming a major conduit for the coronavirus and now only children of key workers, or children deemed ‘vulnerable’ are to attend. The closures also apply to much pre-school provision.

Pressure is on to minimise children in these categories as much as possible and many settings are reporting fewer attendees than anticipated. While schools are always keen to emphasise that their primary purpose is not child care, it’s inescapable that for many of the UK’s 8 million households with dependent children, the closure creates immediate difficulties.

How to manage Employees with Dependents.

Employees with dependents, including children, are entitled to ‘reasonable’ unpaid time off to care for them. Until now, ‘reasonable’ has normally tended to be interpreted as a few days when a child is sick, or while the employee makes other care arrangements.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic things are changing. For many people, default emergency child care has been a grandparent. Not only are older adults more vulnerable to the Coronavirus (and those over 70 expected to self-isolate) but now that we are required to stay within our own households, this is no longer an option anyway. While the Covid-19 pandemic continues, you will need to think about extending employee time off for dependents if you are not able to furlough employees or send them home to work.

Parental leave

Parents are also entitled to take up to 18 weeks’ ‘Parental Leave’ for each child under 18 for whom they have parental responsibility. Some employers may have contractual schemes or a collective agreement that confers additional rights, but in practice the statutory arrangements are the most common.

This provides for unpaid leave with a 21-day notice period required to book a block of up to four weeks. At such uncertain times where people have so little time to plan and may be concerned about their income in the longer term, this is unlikely to be a very popular option.

Homeworking with Dependents

For home workers – as any parent knows – the presence of children causes its own difficulties, particularly where the children are very young. There is also the issue of supervising school work. While there is a plethora of resource and help out there, the requirement to stand in for teachers feels unfamiliar and stressful for many.

To help your employees maintain some kind normal productivity, you will need to think laterally about working times and patterns, even if this has not been part of your business culture before. Some possibilities are early morning or evening working, alternating work and childcare through the day with a partner and minimising online meetings. Most importantly it will mean simply accepting that this is now how things will be for the foreseeable future.

Moorepay customers who have any questions or require any further information, should contact their Payroll / HR Contact for more information.

If you’re not a Moorepay customer and would like to find out how we can support your business, please telephone 0345 184 4615 and select option 1.

**Information in this blog was correct at the time of writing, however with government and legislation changes happening daily, some of this may now be out of date.**

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About the author

Audrey Robertson

About the author

Audrey Robertson

HR Consultancy & Insurance Manager, Audrey, has a strong background in HR, Employment Law and related insurances in a career spanning over 15 years leading teams in-house and as a consultant supporting clients across retail, education and the B2B sectors. At Moorepay, Audrey heads up the Policy & HR Consultancy team as well as the insurance claims department. With a strong commitment and investment in employee wellbeing, having studied counselling and coaching, Audrey is a qualified Mental Health First Aider and supports our staff on-site.

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