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Childcare options for furloughed parents returning to work

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The government is reportedly in talks with firms and unions about getting shops and businesses back up and running as part of plans to ease lockdown measures.

This will mean some furloughed employees could be heading back to work in the coming weeks.

Those with kids may struggle with childcare as schools and nurseries remain closed and talk of re-openings being staggered by age group.

If you’re worried about the how to handle the childcare and work juggle, here are your options:

Ask to remain furloughed

If you’re unable to work due to childcare responsibilities, your employer can furlough you using the Job Retention Scheme, Citizens Advice says.

This means you’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – or 100% if your employer tops up the remaining 20%.

However, it’s up to your employer whether they accept your furlough request. Also, the scheme has proved so popular – with 6.3 million people furloughed in the last fortnight – that the chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is working on plans to wind it up. Although he said there would be no “cliff edge” to the scheme.

At the moment, the scheme is due to close at the end of June.

Ask your employer about flexible working

If your employer says you have to work, Citizens Advice says it may be possible for you to work more flexibly. For example, you could request to move from full time to part time.

Click here for a sample letter to request flexible working.

Some employers may suggest you take annual leave or you may be able to buy extra annual leave, depending on your company’s policy.

Ask for unpaid leave until you can work again

If you’re unable to be furloughed or work flexibly, you could ask for unpaid leave with no fixed end date, Citizens Advice says. This is called ‘indefinite unpaid leave’ and you should ask for it in writing so that you have a record.

If this isn’t an option you could use parental leave.

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least a year, you can have unpaid parental leave for each of your children. The law says you can take four weeks’ leave per child each year, but you can only take 18 weeks in total for the whole period until they reach 18.

You also have to tell your employer 21 days before you want to be off work. It’s a good idea to check with your employer as they might be more generous than this, according to Citizens Advice.

For example, you might be allowed more than four weeks’ leave in a year, or you might be able to give less than 21 days’ notice.

You could also ask for time off for a dependent. You can have some unpaid time off to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with your child. The time off has to be ‘reasonable’ and you can only have enough time to deal with the urgent problem.

For example, if you’re asked to return to work from furlough, you could ask for dependent leave to sort out childcare. You need to tell your employer as soon as possible that you’ll need to be off. You also need to say why you need the time off and when you expect to be back.

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