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. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed." An employee may be unable to work because they have no alternative childcare while the schools are closed during the coronavirus crisis. 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.
There is no requirement under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for an employer to show adverse economic effects on the organisation. Provided that the employee is not working because of circumstances arising as a result of coronavirus, the circumstances can be personal to the employee, such as caring responsibilities.