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Working and caring

Last updated: 13 May 2020 12:34

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.

“I have set up WhatsApp group for local parent carers and another WhatsApp group for carers juggling care and work commitments. The groups provide vital peer support and an opportunity to check in on people who are likely to be feeling vulnerable right now.”


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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 in your household has COVID-19, 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. You may also be asked to certify your absence.

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.

Alternatively, you could speak to your employer to find out if you are eligible to be furloughed (see below for more details). However, if you are put on furlough, you will no longer receive SSP.


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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 July 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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Is it safe for me to go to work?

The government says that people should still try to work from home where they possibly can, with key workers and some other workers, such as those working in manufacturing or construction – who are unable to work from home – being the only exception.

Even then, people are only encouraged to go to work if they are safely able to adhere to hygiene and social distancing rules in the workplace and on their commute. Your employer should be able to provide guidance and 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. 


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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. 

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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