Should you provide ‘lockdown leave’ for parents with childcare needs?

Swiss insurance firm Zurich has introduced ‘lockdown leave’, constituting two weeks of paid leave for parents facing emergency childcare problems in the face of primary and secondary school closures during the third national lockdown. This is more than an employee’s statutory right to take time off work to deal with emergencies involving the care of their children. That statutory right is unpaid and does not apply to planned time off. You don’t have to follow Zurich’s example unless you wish to, but what about furlough?

In response to a question raised in parliament on 13th January 2021, Business Minister, Paul Scully MP, resisted calls to provide a legal and enforceable right for parents to request paid, flexible furlough. When asked to commit to a legal right to furlough for working mothers, Mr Scully said that furlough is available to women and men with childcare responsibilities. However, he confirmed that it was an employer’s decision whether to grant furlough in these circumstances. So, it is your choice.