Many people are confused about the latest advice on lockdowns and the implications for working parents. Here we give the latest coronavirus childcare information.
workingmums.co.uk is receiving a lot of questions about childcare in connection to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The picture is complicated, given the different guidance in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and England.
However, all parts of the UK are now in lockdown of some form, with Scotland having both schools and nurseries closed, except for vulnerable young people and children of key workers. In other parts of the UK, childcare is allowed to remain open.
The Government says that, unlike in March 2020, informal childcare for children under 13 is exempt from lockdowns and other restrictions, meaning anyone who has “a consistent childcare relationship” with a child or children can form a childcare bubble and look after them. This does not, however, apply to occasional playdates. For any given childcare bubble, this must always be between the same two households.
In England, childminders, babysitters and nannies are also able to operate so long as they adhere to the Government guidance. Those who are in an extended bubble with another single family member or a single parent family in a bubble with another household can help each other with childcare.
So what can you do if you have coronavirus childcare problems as a result of Covid restrictions?
Kate Palmer, Associate Director of HR Advisory at HR experts Peninsula, outlines the issue for employers around lockdowns:
“The Government has made clear that a parent will not be classed as ‘self-isolating’ even if their child has been asked to do so unless their child:
“The normal rules on self-isolation will apply if a parent is self-isolating. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be payable to eligible employees, regardless of an individual’s parental status, except in cases where self-isolation is necessary as a result of travel to a non-quarantine exempt country.
“Where a parent is not self-isolating, they are legally entitled to unpaid time off for dependants. The employment right to this time off is intended to be for unforeseen emergencies only, and the coronavirus will likely fall under this. The law stipulates that time off for dependants can be taken specifically where a dependant has either fallen ill, is injured or is assaulted.
“Other qualifying criteria include the need to make arrangements for the provision of care or because such arrangement has been disrupted, in the case of the death of a dependant or where there has been an unexpected incident involving the dependant at school. Currently, there is no qualifying service period required to entitle an employee to take time off work of this nature so employees who have just started a new role can still take this time off.
“If parents are to take time off for dependants they should be aware that, aside from the fact that it is unpaid, they are required to inform their employer as soon as reasonably practicable about the absence, the reason for it and the anticipated length, which employers should not reasonably refuse. This is unless, as set out by law, it is not necessary to take the time off or where the amount of time off proposed is unreasonable. The Government advises that the length of time should not usually be more than two days. Ultimately though, employers should consider the coronavirus situation when establishing principles around a ‘reasonable’ amount of time.
“Alternatively, employers may find it beneficial to open up communication with employees about how an extended period of time off will be dealt with. It may be that employees are permitted to work from home where possible or allowed a temporary period of other flexible working options.”
More information here
Working tax credit can continue for the first 28 weeks you are off work if you are self-employed and you get Employment Support Allowance or would be eligible for it or Statutory Sick Pay if you were an employee. If not, your tax credits will stop after four weeks. If you are not working enough hours for more than four weeks, you might also stop getting the childcare element of WTC. Let HMRC know if your circumstances change.
The Government announced a £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element.
Tax credits should continue to be paid even if people are working fewer hours due to COVID-19.
With regard to fees, the Government says it is continuing to pay early years funding to childcare providers eg to support the 30 hours free childcare. It is also offering financial help for nurseries to cover costs, including a business rates holiday for one year and grants.
For the self-employed (including childminders) there is the Self Employed Income Support Scheme which has been extended to the end of April, although many self employed, particularly those heading limited companies, are not covered. The Chancellor has also announced extensions of business loans.
On continuing to charge parents fees for childcare if they are not earning, the Government says it urges all childcare providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents and to access any financial support on offer.
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