After the announcement that schools and nurseries will be closed from the end of this week except for key workers’ children, we outline the main issues that you are asking about.
Things are changing rapidly with the coronavirus pandemic and it can be hard to keep up. The latest announcement about school and childcare closures has brought a slew of questions about fees, tax credits and the like.
Information is still being updated (see links above for most recent updates), but here are some of the answers to your questions:
Parents will need to talk to their providers about whether they have to keep paying fees. Check your contract – it may state that there will be no refunds if the provider gas to close for reasons beyond its control. However, some may offer refunds – even if there is this proviso, given the exceptional circumstances – or not require fees if they are covered by their insurance or if government chooses to reimburse them. Childcare campaigners are asking for a rescue package, given many are already in challenging financial circumstances.
If your child is sick and can’t go to their childminder or you cannot get there you will similarly need to check your contract to see if you need to keep paying. However, if it is a registered childcare provider and you are still paying for it you should continue to receive any support you might be claiming – eg tax credits, vouchers, tax-free childcare or Universal Credit. If your own work circumstances change, you will need to update this and it may mean you are eligible for other forms of support.
Registered childminders are included. Nannies on Ofsted’s voluntary register aren’t. Reports suggest people are offering unregistered childminding services, but this is going against Government advice on social isolation and could be in breach of safeguarding laws.
The Government says that registered childcare providers who are forced to close will be given financial support and compensation. More detail on the financial support available to all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders affected will be announced soon.
Legally, your employer does not have to pay you for any time off for childcare or let you work from home. You will have to negotiate this. Again, check your contract and staff handbook. There is a lot of pressure on employers to enable homeworking – if at all possible – at this time. It is in their interests too to keep their business running.
Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event, though you don’t have a legal right to be paid for this time. Some employers will pay, however, so check your contract and workplace policy. You may also be able to book the time off as holiday. Speak to your employer directly to find out your options. For more info, see the ACAS website.
If your pay reduces, you may be entitled to Universal Credit – see https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/. You can also call the Employers for Childcare freephone advice line on 0800 028 3008 for a personalised benefits calculation.
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Your right to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) depend on your employment status and earnings.
If you’re an employee and earn at least £118 a week, you will be able to get £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks from the first day you are off sick if it is related to coronavirus.
Some employers have their own more generous sick pay schemes. It is worth checking your contract, staff handbook or with your employer.
If you’re not eligible for SSP, you may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re ill and Universal Credit for costs like housing.
If you can’t make an appointment at your Jobs and Benefits office due to coronavirus you need to let your local benefits office know and you will continue to receive benefits.
Anyone self-isolating who is self-employed, or who works on a short-term contract, can apply for Universal Credit or new style Contributory Employment and Support Allowance during a period of self-isolation.
Join our Facebook Group #schoolsout – support for parents