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Working and caring

Last updated: 27 October 2020 10.25

What’s the latest guidance for working carers?

If you're juggling caring with work, you may be adjusting to very different circumstances and are perhaps additionally worried about the practical and financial effects of the coronavirus. 

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You can read more about the government's latest guidance for employees here.


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What is the latest Job Support Scheme?

On 24 September, the UK government announced that they will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme for employees for when the coronavirus job retention scheme ends at the end of October. It is designed to particularly help those who are not able to work their full quota of hours with the cost of any hours not worked split between the government and the employer.

The replacement scheme, starting from 1 November, means that:

  • An employee now needs to work a minimum of 20% of their usual hours to benefit from the Job Support Scheme
  • Alongside this, the employee will receive 66.67% of their usual pay for the hours not worked.
  • The government has also cut the level of employer contribution from 33% – to just 5%.
  • This means the government will pay 62% of a worker’s wages for the time they are away from their job.
  • If an employee earns less than £3,125 per month, they can continue to receive 73% of their normal wages.

For the first three months of the scheme, the employee must work at least 5% of their usual hours. The government will review whether to increase the threshold after three months. The scheme is open to all companies adversely affected by the coronavirus. To find out more, see this page


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What happens if my workplace temporarily closes down due to COVID-19 local restrictions?

My workplace has temporarily closed down due to local COVID-19 restrictions.  Am I eligible for financial support?

Yes, under the expanded Job Support Scheme, the government can pay two thirds of your salary – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. This applies if your workplace is forced to close due to local or national COVID-19 restrictions and you are off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.

Can my employer make me redundant or give me notice of redundancy during this period?

No, your employer cannot make you redundant or give you a notice of redundancy during the period in which your workplace has been forced to shut down. You can find out more information on this page of the Gov.uk website.


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Can I get support if I'm self-employed?

If you are self-employed and have been adversely affected by the coronavirus, you may be able to claim a grant through the 'Self-Employment Income Support Scheme'. The deadline for the latest grant application is 19 October. (Note that the grant is being extended from 1 November 2020.) To find out if you're eligible and for more details, see this page.


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Can I stay on furlough if my employer has no work for me to do? 

If you have already been on furlough, your employer may be able to let you continue on furlough until the scheme ends on 31 October 2020. If your employer is struggling to stay in operation, they may be unable to make contributions towards your furlough pay from August. In this instance, your salary is likely to reduce, so you should check to see if you are eligible for Universal Credit


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Do I have to go to work if someone I live with has COVID-19 symptoms? 

If you can work from home, you should speak to your employer about working from home. If you cannot work from home, you should tell your employer that someone in your household has COVID-19 and that you must self-isolate. If your employer cannot pay you sick pay, you might be able to get Statutory Sick Pay from day one of self-isolation. If you are not eligible for SSP, you can apply for Universal Credit.


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I've been shielding – when should I return to work?

Although shielding was paused across the UK in August, there are concerns about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and some parts of the UK are currently worse affected than others. Local lockdowns now apply in certain areas where tighter restrictions have been put in place – read more to see if you are affected.

It is only recommended that you return to work if it is safe to do so and if your workplace has been made 'Covid secure' in line with government guidance

Where possible, all are advised to continue to work from home if they can. If you are able to work from home and feel safer in doing so, you should explain this to your employer who should look to support you, especially in view of any caring commitments you have. Your risk in terms of travel arrangements and using public transport for a commute to work should also be carefully considered.

It is vital to follow strict social distancing guidance, although this may not always be possible if you are providing essential care for someone. Everyone should also take cautious hygiene measures, such as frequently washing your hands and wearing face coverings in public settings, to minimise any risk to yourself and others. 

See further guidance on what measures your employer will need to take to ensure your work environment is safe in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

 


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Is it safe for me to go to work?

We are all advised to work from home wherever possible. You should only consider going to work if it is possible to adhere safely to hygiene and social distancing rules in the workplace and on your commute. Your employer should be able to provide guidance, but also bear in mind that, as a carer, you have the statutory right to request flexible working. Check with your employer how they can support you with this. You can also use this form to apply. 

If you have any concerns, we recommend that you speak to your employer to discuss what health and safety policies and procedures are in place to protect you in keeping with government guidance. This useful tool may also help you decide what's best for you.

Innovate icon
Adviser tip
: "It is crucial to be clear on the outcomes you are hoping to achieve. You need to ask yourself what you are looking to change in your current working practices to provide that flexibility you need to balance work and caring tasks."


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What if I have to take time off?

If you have been advised to 'self-isolate' by NHS 111 or a medical professional, because you or someone you have been in contact with has COVID-19 symptoms, you must tell your employer as soon as possible. This does not need to be in writing.

Your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply. The government has promised, as a minimum, that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be given from day one of self-isolation – see further details here. You should check your contract of employment to see if your employer offers contractual sick pay on top. 

By law, for the first seven days of sickness, you are not required to provide medical evidence to your employer. After seven days, it is at the discretion of your employer to decide what evidence, if any, they need from you. Due to the unusual nature of the situation, the government has strongly advised that employers use their discretion. 

You can self-certify your absence to prove your sickness by creating an isolation note here, which replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit/sick note’ after seven days of sickness absence. Workers who are not eligible for SSP may be eligible to apply for support through the new-style ESA and/or Universal Credit.


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What does it mean to be furloughed?

The government has introduced a temporary scheme, referred to as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to support UK employers whose operations have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.

The scheme is aimed at helping employers to retain staff during the pandemic even if forced to temporarily close down. It has been open to all UK employers, providing they had a PAYE payroll scheme in operation on 28 February 2020 from 1 March and has been extended until the end of October 2020. 

The government's guidance on furloughing workers explicitly states that furloughing applies to people with caring responsibilities. Your employer can claim for 80% of your wages under this scheme (up to £2,500 a month). It is at the discretion of your employer whether they choose to top-up the extra 20% of your salary. If you agree to this with your employer, you will be kept on payroll. This is what is known as being furloughed. 

Your employer must confirm that you have been furloughed in writing. You cannot apply for the scheme yourself; your employer should claim on your behalf.

Whilst on furlough, you cannot do any work for your employer and you retain all the rights you did before, with exception to usual pay. You can train or do voluntary work as long as it is not in service for or generating revenue for your employer. Those who started employment after 28 February are not eligible. From August the costs will be shared with employers but workers will continue to receive the same amount. 

If it is not possible to work from home, and your employer cannot give you paid or unpaid leave, then you could discuss with your employer whether you should be furloughed. For example, if you have taken on caring responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, you could ask your employer to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, your employer would still need to agree to this. 

For more details, see this Gov.uk page and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here on the Working Families site. Our latest statement is also available on our website. 


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What are my rights?

As an employee, you also have a statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off from work:

  • To see to an emergency or unforeseen matter involving your partner, child, parent, grandchild, or someone who relies on you for care.
  • There is no fixed amount of time you can take off.
  • The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right. 
  • Also check your work policy on care leave. ACAS has further useful information on taking time off to look after someone else. 

See the article below for some tips about working and caring during the current challenging times:

Innovate icon

 Read the guide: "Working and caring – COVID-19"

 

If you are at risk of redundancy, you can find some useful information about your employment rights at https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/coronavirus-furlough/. You may also find our work and career pages of interest.


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If I'm contacted by the 'track and trace' system and need to stop working to 'self-isolate', can I get financial support?

You may be eligible for a one-off payment through a new government self-isolation grant scheme in England. Find out more under 'Debt worries'

If you are contacted by Test and Protect in Scotland and are on a low income, you may be eligible for a self-isolation grant. Find out more here.


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Is any extra support available if you are in a tier 3 area?

If you live in an area where the highest levels of restrictions are in place, the government has agreed to pay two-thirds (67%) of a worker’s usual wages. Employers pay no wages, although they must still pay national insurance and pensions contributions.

The government has also made available business grants of up to £3,000 a month open to companies in tier 3 areas. Ministers have also pledged to provide support to local authorities for helping businesses in their local areas.


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