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On 4th April 2020 the Government issued guidance on furloughing workers via the Job Retention Scheme, which sees UK workers on PAYE payroll receive at least 80% of their salary if they are not able to work during the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

Furloughing applies only if the employer’s operations have been severely affected by coronavirus, and where the person cannot work from home or flexibly.

The guidance specifically states that if someone is unable to work because they are with someone who is shielding, and they cannot work from home or flexibly, then they can be furloughed and employers can claim for them, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria.

It also explicitly states that furloughing applies to people with caring responsibilities as well. Although the examples used in the guidance refer only to parents, furloughing also includes carers who are looking after someone who depends on them for support – similar to the definition of carer under the 1998 Employment Act.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“We are really pleased that Government has clarified that people with caring responsibilities can take advantage of the Job Retention Scheme too, responding to some of the real issues carers are facing right now trying to juggle work and care.

“It is an extremely challenging situation: many of the care services that unpaid carers rely on to go to work everyday - such as day centres and care workers coming into the home - are either not operating or have been reduced because of staffing levels. We were worried that carers were being left out of the equation and, having raised carers’ experiences with Government, we are grateful for this clarification.

“We also recognise that whilst these are positive measures, they don’t apply to the public sector, where we estimate that 1 in 5 of the workforce would normally be juggling work and caring for a sick, older or disabled relative or friend. We know these are challenging times for vital services, but urge all public sector employers to give families the flexibility they need to care for their disabled and older relatives at this time.

“Government has also published specific practical guidance for unpaid carers. We are pleased that they have taken on board some of the key concerns carers have been telling us – such as how to best protect someone who is extremely vulnerable, and how to create a contingency plan – and reflected these concerns in their advice. We were delighted to have been involved in shaping that advice with Government.”

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