The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called on employers to offer furlough to all parents affected by the national lockdown. The TUC is concerned that not all employers are aware that caring responsibilities are an acceptable reason to furlough staff using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme). The TUC also stated that the government should go further and change the current parental leave system by introducing a day one right for all parents the right to work flexibly plus ten days’ paid parental leave each year.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government’s financial support package isn’t good enough to cope with this renewed public health emergency. Without more support, jobs will be lost and businesses will close.

“Ministers must act quickly by providing targeted help for hard-hit industries, boosting sick pay to a real Living Wage so that people can afford to self-isolate and increasing Universal Credit.

“And in the wake of school closures, ministers need to help working families by encouraging employers to furlough parents who can’t work because of childcare responsibilities.

“That’s the right response to new national restrictions and spiralling infection rates. Government must not force a choice between lives and livelihoods.”

TUC polling published in September 2020 found 16% of working mothers had been given no choice but to reduce their working hours due to school and nursery closures earlier in 2020. 

The Scheme is currently due to run until 30 April 2021. Under the Scheme, employees on furlough will receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 per month. 

Employers can agree any working arrangement with an employee on flexible furlough, and this can change from week to week. This means that employees can work part-time and receive a furlough grant for their unworked hours. Therefore, parents could be furloughed and share childcare responsibilities during any period where they are affected by a lack of alternative childcare.  

Whilst there is no minimum number of weeks or days that an employee must be on furlough, any claim through the Scheme portal needs to cover a period of at least one week unless an employer is claiming for the first few days or last few days in a month.