Coronavirus: what working parents need to know

How can working parents best face up to the potential issues raised by coronavirus?

Organised working mum


What happens if the schools and nurseries close during the coronavirus outbreak, and for a long time? What are your options if your usual back-up or your first line support is grandparents? What happens if you don’t have the money to pay for nannies or babysitters if you have to work from home? And how do you support elderly relatives if you and your kids are still at risk of exposure to the virus? These are the questions many people are debating this week as it looks likely that older people will be asked to self isolate for potentially months in the next days.

The coronavirus is going to put enormous demands on society generally and it is very clear that everyone will have to alter their behaviour and look out for each other in the coming weeks/months.

Get connected

When it comes to parents who are working from home, there are several logistical issues. If the schools/nurseries are still open, but you are in self isolation how do you drop and pick up your kids? It will come down to neighbours, friends and school connections. Ask your school/nurseries if they know of anyone organising anything, start organising class whatsapp groups if you aren’t on one already, get connected.


If you have to homeschool your kids and work: be under no illusions that this is hard. It will depend on your children’s ages, the number of children you have, your children’s need for support, whether there are two parents at home who can alternate duties etc. Older kids can help younger ones with peer learning. Much information is available online, including links to home schooling support groups, and your children’s school will probably organise for work to be sent over. But what if you don’t have sufficient laptops? You may have to do things in shifts or, again, collaborate with friends and neighbours. Community is going to come into its own.

It is very difficult to homeschool while simultaneously working so you are likely to have to do shifts, working around homeschooling. There may be work you can set your child which frees you up to do some of your own work – tasks like reading comprehensions, etc. Once you have explained the basics, they can do some exercises on their own and then you can go through them with them, for instance. This may be difficult the older your children are, but hopefully their teachers will send links to online resources.

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If your nursery is closed or your childminder is sick

For people with toddlers and babies: working while juggling childcare is extremely difficult. Many women who start their own businesses from home do it, but it involves taking advantage of any sleep or down times to do work and working odd hours around childcare eg early mornings and late evenings, although you don’t want to overdo this as sleep is vital for health. You will find yourself getting very good at focusing very quickly and getting a lot done in a very short time period. Use the time when kids are sleeping/glued to a film [do NOT feel guilty about the latter] to get the tasks which require most mental concentration done. Things like checking emails can be done more easily with children around. For calls, use the mute button judiciously and see if you can get someone in to help out.

Informal childcare

Generally, the more you can club together with other parents in the same boat – if they don’t have the virus – the easier it will be. That means organising informal childcare or school run networks with a couple of friends. Again connecting with other parents is key. Everyone is going to be in this together. You can’t get financial support for informal childcare eg tax credits, etc – and money should not change hands for younger kids. Ofsted rules state that friends cannot gain a reward for looking after a child aged under eight for more than two hours outside their home without being registered. A friend will, however, not need to be registered if the children are all aged over eight, if they are looking after the children in their own home or if the care is for less than two hours a day.

Babysitters are another source of potential help, even if only for an hour or two if you have conference calls, etc. Sites like and can help.

All of the above requires good powers of organisation so strategising ahead is a good idea.

Elderly relatives

For elderly relatives, it is important to ensure they have enough food [ordering online well ahead of need as online ordering slots may get full] and to keep in regular contact. If they live nearby, you can deliver food and check they are okay, maintaining your distance to ensure they are not infected [see]. There may also be local volunteers you or they can contact via the council or other bodies, such as Age UK. Try and organise some sort of local back-up if you don’t live nearby as well as access to information in case things change and health service helplines are overwhelmed. This will also give you peace of mind.

Comments [66]

  • sandra says:

    my daughter is a care home worker if they go into lockdown as some have and she has to stay in the home can i keep my grandchildren with me. she is a single parent.

  • Amy says:

    They are not isolating for health reasons. As a precaution and to be safe, they had decided to stay in a week before the schools closed. They only go out now for the supermarket. I am questioning whether I should still nanny as neither of them work or are key persons, and the recent rules are stay at home or travel if work is essential.

  • Shannon Campbell MacDonald says:

    Hi, my mum looks after my son twice a week when I go to work she lives in a different house and comes to mine to look after him. Is she still able to do this??

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Where grandparents are concerned, this is a grey area. The only thing the Government documents say is that older grandparents cannot look after grandchildren [ie people over 70 or in at risk groups]. We have asked whether younger grandparents would be okay to look after children – childminders are – and have not yet received an answer. The aim of the government advice is to reduce people’s contacts, but if you have no other means of looking after your children there may be nothing else you can do. You could ask your local authority who are coordinating childcare for key workers. We will update the site when we get a response from the Government.

  • Amy says:

    Hi, I am a nanny for a family but neither of the parents are key workers. Dad plays football, so he is now at home and mum does not work anyway, although she has narcolepsy. The family have been at home and social distancing for weeks. Am I able to continue to nanny for them? I ask this because of the recent travel for work if it is essential. If I am unable to work for them, will I still be entitled to pay?

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      When you say they are social distancing, do you mean isolating for health reasons? Does your contract cover any of this?

      • Amy says:

        No not for health reasons, just to be safe and cautious. They all had decided to stay in a week before the schools closed and the parents are only going out only to the supermarket. Since the new rules of staying in and only travelling for essential work, I wanted to question whether I should still be nannying as they don’t not work and are not key workers.

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      If you cannot work from home (maybe because you are a shop or factory worker) and your job is no longer being carried out at your place of work, then your employer can apply to the government to cover 80% of your wages (to a max of £2,500p/m) through the coronavirus job retention scheme. This should not affect your sick leave.

  • Jane says:

    My childs play group has closed due to the Coronavirus. Whilst I worked she spent 70% of her time with grandparents and the rest at playgroup. I am considered a key worker (not NHS or Carer). My work have said that if take time off, I can have 2 weeks but will have to make up my hours when this is all over. For any additional weeks then I need to take my holidays. Is this correct? I am a single parent and do not know how I can make time up. My child is already upset and a new unfamiliar setting for an extended time would unbalance her. She gets stressed.

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      If you need to take time off from work, you can take annual leave or parental leave/time off for dependents which is unpaid.
      Where grandparents are concerned, this is a grey area. The only thing the Government documents say is that older grandparents cannot look after grandchildren [ie people over 70 or in at risk groups]. We have asked whether younger grandparents would be okay to look after children and have not yet received an answer. The aim of the government advice is to reduce people’s contacts, but if you have no other means of looking after your children there may be nothing else you can do. You could ask your local authority who are coordinating childcare for key workers. We will update the site when we get a response from the Government.

  • Charlotte says:

    My childminder is open for key workers children only (I’m not a key worker)
    I’m now working from home and home schooling a 9 year old. My childminder has said that she still expects me to pay in full every month to ensure my child’s place when everything returns to normal. Is this normal practice?? I can’t really afford to pay her at the moment. We aren’t in receipt of universal credits at the moment.

  • Francisca says:


    Please can you advise me about this? I’m a Nanny and supposed to start a new job on the 30th of March next week. I had two meets with the new family and they offered me a job after all the checks. Also, I refused two job offers from others families to accept this, and now the family called to say that, as the situation changes because of the Coronavirus they are not able to offer this job anymore, which lives me with empty hands.

  • Sarah says:

    Like many I am working from home with my children as the government have advised. However my work are now threatening people that if they don’t prioritise their work over thier childcare they won’t get paid!! So we have any rights regarding this? I feel as though I’m being forced between paying my bills and putting food on the table or looking after my children!

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Can you write to with more information on your situation? What kind of contract are you on? Are you paid by the hour? Is there anything in your contract about withdrawing pay? Employers are being urged to be understanding in the current crisis, which includes about the extra pressures on parents.

  • Kerry says:

    Hi I am a key worker and my children usually go to my sister while I work youngest being 2 and not in nursery, now we r on lock down can I still send them to her house while I go to work? She also had children at home too

  • Eleanor scaplehorn says:

    I look after my grandchildren 2 days a week and my son in laws mum looks after then 1 day a week she also has other grandchildren that she looks after on a different day
    My daughter is now having to work from home with a1 year and 3 year old my husband is also working as he is having driver delivering food
    Is it still ok for me to continue to look after the children

  • Vicki says:

    My mum and dad look after my daughter whilst I go to work can I still take her to there house I’m a carer.

  • Nic says:

    Will I need to pay my childminder full pay if I have been told to self isolate myself and my children for 12 weeks due to me being diabetic and will I still receive tax credits

  • Lou says:

    I’m a keyworker and I have babysitter can they still babysit

  • Mandy says:

    I am struggling going into work in the evening I rely on my friends to look after my daughter as I work in a hospital but they are both isolating with members of their own family so my daughter can’t stay with them. What are my rights as these Arnt registered childminders just friends who help out

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      If they are isolating it must be because they fear they are vulnerable or may have the coronavirus so it is probably not a good idea for your daughter to go there. If you cannot find alternative childcare you may have to take parental leave or time off for dependants, although this is unpaid. Can you vary your hours to fit with times when you might be able to get childcare eg if you are a key worker you local authority might be able to help with this?

      • MANDY says:

        Not really I’m domestic in a hospital so we work when the clinics close so I work after tea time and you can’t find a childminder for then it’s really hard after 5pm . And with the government putting us on lockdown it’s hard my friends having her they need to think of there own families.

  • Angela says:

    Hello, my childminder has said as my partner is a key worker but I am not she is unable to carry on looking after our daughter. She still expects us to pay in full. Can she do this?

  • Ellis says:

    I am a care assistant in a nursing home and believe I am classed as a key worker? I have a 2 year old and my mother in law usually has her at her house for me to go to work. I am slightly confused as they are saying children need to be kept at home due to social distancing but how am I meant to work? My mother in law isn’t in any of the high risk categories and is fit and healthy, do I continue to let her have my daughter for me to work or do I stay home to look after her. I am very confused.

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      This is up to you, but as a key worker you should be able to access childcare if you need it. Contact your local authority.

      • Rachel says:

        Is this still applicable after last nights announcement? We are both keyworks, and I have three children, ages 5, 2 and 1. Only way we can both work is to send them to our 60year old parents for assistance?

        • Mandy Garner

          Mandy Garner says:

          Gransnet are saying that grandparents cannot look after children. We are waiting for some clarification on this. There is not much we can do if the Government is not being clear on this at the present time.

  • Miss Genia Gorna says:

    My childminder has closed, so I now have to stay home to care for my 18 month old. I am taking unpaid leave. Is there any government help in cases like this?

  • Becky says:


    Can you give me some guidance….. I’m due to start a new job later this week but due to school closures, dad and grandparent in the High risk category and having to isolate I’m not going to be able to go, will I be entitled to anything from work?

  • Sharron says:

    My child’s nursery has demanded that we continue to pay full fees for the foreseeable as it stipulates this in the contract is there any advise I can get regarding the circumstances we find ourselves in as our salaries have been drastically reduce and to pay full time fees just seems unreasonable for a service we are not getting
    The contract has the following clause
    “Fees are also payable if the nursery is closed for any event beyond our reasonable control, including, but not limited to, lack of essential services or severe weather conditions. The nursery will close at 4pm on Christmas Eve
    • The nursery reserves the right to close the setting in emergency situations that are outside of its control such as extreme weather that may enforce temporary closure. Please note in such circumstances, we will not be able to refund parents or offer alternative sessions but will make every effort to return to normal service as soon as possible. VN accepts no responsibility for any loss suffered by you as a result of the nursery being temporarily closed due to an unforeseen emergency.“

  • Leanne Mcmillan says:

    I’m a registered nanny with ofsted and work for a family. They have asked me to work but I also have my own small children that would now need to come with me. what about social distancing? Is this allowed? I’m worried as my baby has had respiratory problems in the past.

  • Anna says:

    I am a teacher but currently on maternity leave. I am due to go back to work next month. The private nursery I send my 2 year old to is open to key worker children. Can I continue to send my child to nursery as usual? Do I have to wait until I return to my school before he can continue going to nursery?

  • Dave says:

    In our contract it says “if due to my illness…. or an unforeseen problem the amount due would be £(blank)” underneath says “sick-no charge” “me (childminder) holidays 1/2 rate” she has still requested full fees but I think that’s unfair especially that one of us will be absent from work now…

  • Victoria Smith says:

    My daughter is a single parent. The childminder will now not have her children so she cannot work as she needs to look after them. The childminder is still cannot payment, but she cannot pay if she isn’t earning. What happens now? The contract does not mention epidemics etc. It does say if mum is I’ll she pays in full, if childminder is I’ll there is no charge….. help.

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      The government has been clear that registered childcare providers who are forced to close will be given financial support and compensation. The government wants to ensure – once the virus has been beaten – that families can still access the registered childcare that they need and this means doing all that government can to support registered providers who have to close to survive this challenging time. More detail on the financial support available to all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders affected will be announced soon. You should mention this to your childminder.

  • Michaela mullinder says:

    My child’s private nursery is closing because of the virus so I can’t go to work .will I still have to pay the nursarh

  • Amy Gillings says:

    My childminder is saying she is allowed to stay open for parents who have to work (but she hasn’t specifically said key workers). I thought all childminders were asked to close yesterday in line with schools and nursery settings?

  • Emma says:

    My childminder is saying it’s not her fault the schools are now closed and she is expecting payment as usual for the before and after school care she usually provides daily – can she still charge for this and do I legally have to pay her for a childcare service she isn’t providing.

  • Rachel Taft says:

    Will I still receive my child tax credits if I am not paying my childminder due to the recent closures?

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