Can an employer place an employee on furlough if they need to stay at home to look after their children?

Yes. Guidance published by HM Revenue and Customs on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme confirms that employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed, including employees who need to look after children.

An employee may be unable to work because they have no alternative childcare, for example if a school is closed during the coronavirus crisis, or if their child is required to self-isolate. An employee in this situation would not have the right to paid time off (unless provided for in their contract of employment), so a period of furlough may be a potential solution for both employer and employee.