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

Note: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closed on 31 October 2020 and has been replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020. The last date on which employers can submit or amend claims for employees furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is 30 November 2020.

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.

The scheme is now closed to new entrants, except where the employee is returning from statutory family leave or is a military reservist returning from active service.