What to do if you cannot work because you are caring for someone or because your child is not at school

COVID-19: What to do if you cannot work
because you are caring for someone
or because your child is not at school

You might be able to receive some or all of your pay from your Employer

You might be able to take time off without using your Annual Leave

If you are off work to look after someone with COVID-19, your rights are different.
You should check if you can receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) because you are self-isolating.

You can ask your Employer if they will put you on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

This is known as being ‘Furloughed’.

You will be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Your employer should decide whether to agree to this based on Government guidelines.

If your Employer says you have to work, think about whether you would be able to do your job flexibly. For example, you might be able to work:

  • from home – this is recommended by the Government anyway
  • at times that suit you, like evenings or weekends
  • on different tasks than usual
  • fewer hours

You can find out what kind of flexible working your employer offers by:

  • checking your Contract of Employment
  • checking if your Employer has a Flexible Working Policy
  • asking your Manager or the HR Team

If you want to work in a way that your Employer does not already offer, you should still ask. Some employers are willing to let staff try new ways of working because of COVID-19.

You could consider using Annual Leave. Some Employers let you ‘buy’ extra days of Annual Leave.  This means you will be paid less but receive more days off.

You could ask for Unpaid Leave until you can work again.  This is called ‘Indefinite Unpaid Leave’. The Law says they must consider allowing you to have some Unpaid Leave, but only for a limited period of time.

It is a good idea to ask your Employer to reply in writing. This means if there is a problem later on, you have a record of what they agreed.

If you have worked for your Employer for at least a year, you can have Unpaid Parental Leave for each of your Children. You receive 18 weeks for each Child for the whole period until they’re 18. Your Child’s other Parent can also take 18 weeks.

You cannot take Parental Leave if you are Furloughed.

The Law says you can only take 4 weeks’ Leave per Child each year. You also have to tell your Employer 21 days before you want to be off work. It is a good idea to check your Contract of Employment and your Employer’s Policies.  Your Employer might be more generous than this. For example, you might be allowed more than 4 weeks’ in a year.

Even if your Contract only allows the Legal minimum, you can still ask your Employer for what you need. They might be willing to agree because of the COVID-19 situation. For example, you could ask to start Parental Leave straight away instead of waiting 21 days.

You should ask your Employer to reply in writing to your request for Parental Leave.

You can have some unpaid time off to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with a Dependant. The time off has to be ‘reasonable’ and you can only have enough time to deal with the urgent problem.

A Dependant includes:

  • your child
  • your partner, husband, wife or civil partner
  • your parent
  • someone who lives at your house, unless they’re a lodger or employee
  • someone who relies on you, like a disabled neighbour

You need to tell your Employer as soon as possible that you will need to be off work. You also need to say why you need the time off and when you expect to be back.

If you are not paid your usual amount, you should check if you can receive Benefits.


If you would like the help of a Specialist Benefits Caseworker, please call Paperweight on 020 8455 4996 or e-mail info@paperweight.org.uk

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