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Working and caring

Last updated: 14 August  2020 17.44

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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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?

If you are considered to be at high risk from the coronavirus and have been shielding, the latest guidance currently indicates that you no longer have to shield from 1 August (or 16 August in Wales). However, note that local lockdowns apply in certain areas where tighter restrictions are in place – read more to see if you are affected.

If you have been shielding, you may now be able to return to work, but this is only recommended if it is safe to do so and if your workplace has been made 'Covid secure' in line with government guidance

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.

Although you are also able to go to places like shops and restaurants if you wish, is it vital to follow strict social distancing guidance when outside, as well as taking cautious hygiene measures such as frequently washing your hands, to minimise any risk, and wearing face coverings in certain settings.

See below 'Is it safe for me to go to work?' for more details.

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?

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, 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.

From 1 August (or 16 August in Wales), those who have been shielding and unable to work from home, can return to work as long as their workplace is COVID secure and it is safe to do so, adhering to the guidance available

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. 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:

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 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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