Updated furlough guidance gives flexibility for nurseries to rotate staff

Catherine Gaunt
Thursday, April 2, 2020

Nursery workers that have been put on temporary leave by their employer during the coronavirus crisis can be furloughed more than once, according to updated guidance.

Early years staff will be able to move in and out of temporary paid leave during the Covid-19 crisis
Early years staff will be able to move in and out of temporary paid leave during the Covid-19 crisis

The scheme allows employers to keep staff on the payroll if they are unable to operate or have no work to do because of Covid-19.

Employees need to be on ‘furlough’ (i.e a temporary paid leave of absence) for a minimum of three weeks, but can be moved on and off the scheme during the time it is open.

The early years sector has welcomed the clarification from HMRC that employees, including childcare staff, can be placed on furlough more than once.

The move will give early years settings more flexibility in rotating staff during the pandemic.

The Early Years Alliance had called for flexibility to be applied for childcare settings staying partially open who may need to 'unfurlough' and 'refurlough' staff to cover instances such as sickness and self-isolation. The organisation had said that the inability to 'unfurlough' and 'refurlough' staff to provide cover made it unclear if this system would be flexible enough to really benefit nurseries, pre-schools, and childminders who employ assistants, that are staying open for key workers and vulnerable children.

The organisation's MP email-campaign on this issue led to hundreds of letters being sent to MPs in a matter of days.

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said,We welcome the news that childcare providers, alongside other businesses, are able to access the job retention scheme flexibly.

For childcare providers remaining partially open, such flexibility - for example, the ability to rotate staff who are furloughed in instances of staff sickness or self-isolation - is absolutely vital to being able to continue operating and providing places for key worker families and vulnerable children during this difficult period.’

Hannah Belton, director, Morgan LaRoche said, ‘A worker has to be on furlough leave for a minimum of 3 weeks. There is nothing in the guidance that prohibits rotating furlough leave with weeks of work. During furlough leave staff can undertake volunteer work without bringing it to an end.’

The Government has said the coronavirus job retention scheme, which allows employers to put staff on temporary paid leave (furlough), will run for a minimum of three months.

The employer could pay 80 per cent of staff wages through the scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.

Employees will be paid by their employer and taxes paid from the income. 

The guidance states, ‘If your employer chooses to place you on furlough, you will need to remain on furlough for a minimum of 3 weeks. However, your employer can place you on furlough more than once, and one period can follow straight after an existing furlough period, while the scheme is open. The scheme will be open for at least 3 months.’

  • The Government guidance is available here

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