Summer holiday childcare

With summer holidays lasting longer than most parents’ annual leave allowance and with many having already exhausted their leave, workingmums.co.uk outlines your rights to childcare support over the next six weeks.

Childcare

 

Next week Covid restrictions are being eased in England, meaning the rules on working from home where possible will no longer be in place. The easing coincides with the last week of term in England [Scottish schools being already on holiday] and a survey from the TUC and Mother Pukka this week shows that many parents are worried about childcare cover over the summer with less summer holiday childcare available this year and concerns about rising infection rates.

What can you do?

If you are facing problems with childcare over the summer, these are the main things you can do:

  • Ask to be furloughed. The scheme is in place until the end of September, although employers now have to contribute to it. The Government guidance states: “If you are unable to work, including from home, due to caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus (Covid-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in your household, then you should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.“ This includes for employers who are able to operate during the lockdown. It must be agreed by the employer and employee, however. Employers can also take advantage of the flexible furlough scheme whereby they can put people on furlough for part of the working week.
  • Apply for flexible working. If you can’t work from home or cannot work your full hours due to childcare issues, you could ask to reduce your hours temporarily on an informal basis. If you want something more formal where your rights are protected and your employer can only turn down your request citing one of seven different reasons, you can apply for flexible working formally, but be aware that if you change your hours that is a permanent change and you would need to wait at least a year to change your hours back and this would not be guaranteed. You could also try to negotiate some proportion of your week to be spent working from home, if this is possible.
  • Use annual leave which you will have continued to build up if you have been furloughed. You could also ask your employer if you could take annual leave in advance if you have already used it up.
  • Use unpaid parental leave and time off for emergencies

Some employers are coming up with their own strategies for helping parents over the next week. Atos, for instance, is running a virtual holiday camp to help homeworking parents. During the second lockdown, when parents were struggling with childcare, Teach First implemented its own internal furlough scheme. Other employers say they are allowing those who can to work from home with their children there. For those who can’t, some, such as the construction company Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, are allowing people to buy extra holidays or adjust their hours to work flexibly.

Advice for employers

Kate Palmer at HR experts Peninsula, outlines the issue for employers when it comes to childcare issues over the summer. In the past week many children have been sent home due to rising Covid infections, causing problems for parents who have to work outside the home.

She says: “Children being sent home to isolate has left a lot of workplaces struggling operationally with parents also having to stay home. This week we are seeing an increase in parents keeping children home from school to avoid having to self-isolate ahead of the school holidays.”

With term ending next week, Palmer says this issue should only be temporary, but she points out that there is still a significant gap between the relaxing of restrictions on 19th July and 16th August when close contacts of people with Covid who have been double vaccinate will no longer have to isolate. Employers are worried that rising infections in that period could cause operational problems, particularly in customer-facing roles.

On summer holiday childcare, Palmer states: “When the schools break up for summer, employers may find it difficult to manage a surge of holiday requests that may come in due to childcare issues. This should be dealt with as normal. However, if staff have exhausted their annual leave entitlement for the year, employers may wish to allow them to take unpaid leave, depending on their specific circumstances or to work from home if possible.”



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