Is furlough the answer to homeschool childcare issues?

Growing number of voices support the idea that working dads and working mums should be offered furlough automatically when schools shut

Image of a clock next to virus particles with the word furlough


A growing number of parents are calling on employers to automatically furlough them while schools are closed. Earlier this week the TUC called on bosses to offer furlough to parents whose kids are now at home. And at the Facebook page for our sister site many parents support that stance. One parent commented, “This should be implemented immediately. Working and homeschooling over a prolonged period is dreadful for everyone involved in it.”

The Government guidance has been that “if you are unable to work, including from home, due to caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus (Covid-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in your household, then you should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.“

Working dads

Currently, both employer and employee must agree that furlough is the way forward. Some employers have turned it down in the past. Working dads in particular may find it hard to ask for furlough due to childcare. It’s already known that many men won’t ask for flexible working for fear of the stigma and the impact it will have on their career. Asking to temporarily give up work altogether is likely to exacerbate those feelings and worries.

It’s possible working dads are right to worry. Working mums already know the impact childcare can have on a career. And a growing body of research suggest Covid has accelerated previous trends. One mum told the Facebook group she went on furlough for childcare reasons and was subsequently made redundant. Another said: “I’ll lose my promotion and my second pay review!”

Another concern is that furlough is only 80% of wages [up to a cap of £2,500 a month]. Most employers don’t top that up to 100%, particularly for the lowest paid. One parent stated they were strongly against automatic furlough when schools shut. They said: “I pray if this happens it isn’t compulsory. Yes it’s hard but finances are also hard at the moment our gas and electric is through the roof now we are home all day and every day a 20% pay cut would kill us off.”


Not everyone is eligible though. To be furloughed you need to have been employed and on payroll on 30th October 2020 and your employer has to have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for you. This applies to all types of contract. People with more than one job can be furloughed for each of them. Public sector employers can only furlough staff for the part of their job that is not funded by public money, for instance, private nurseries which take money for the 30 hours subsidies for three and four year olds.

Many of the self employed parents who commented said they had not had any financial support during the pandemic. One company director was advised that she could furlough herself if she pays herself via PAYE. That would, however, mean she couldn’t continue to work. Flexible furlough – where you work part of the week and are on furlough for the rest – might work for freelance dads in a similar situation.

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