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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Rule change allowing parental pay for childcare under ‘furlough’ scheme is ‘vital recognition’ of its importance, says IPPR

New government guidance this weekend follows IPPR call for more generous support for families during Covid-19 crisis, including paid leave for parents  

The Government has updated its guidance on who is eligible for 'furlough' under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to include employees with caring responsibilities, after IPPR, the TUC and Children England called for the change last week.

Responding to the revision, posted on the Gov.uk website on April 4, Clare McNeil, IPPR Associate Director for Work and the Welfare State, said:  

“We are delighted that the government has today changed the criteria for its Job Retention Scheme so that employees unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus can be furloughed.  

“Caring for children should be recognised for what it is, a full-time occupation. This is a vital recognition from the government of the place that caring for others has in our society, alongside paid employment. 

“This change could make a real difference to those who face difficulties in combining working with caring for children, including single parents, those with a child with special educational needs or a disability, and those with very young children or babies. 

“Many people with additional caring responsibilities for adults as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, including for older relatives, will also benefit from this change.” 

IPPR is urging further changes to furlough rules to strengthen and extend the current guidance, including: 

  • Extend the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to those on reduced hours, who have received less support during this crisis so far. This could allow parents to reduce their hours, rather than stopping work completely, and would also offer the option of sharing paid leave with a partner.  
  • Give employees with caring responsibilities a right to furlough, as at present an employee can only be furloughed if the employer agrees.

Clare McNeil said:  

“Without these additional measures, a disproportionately high number of women could be ‘fully furloughed’ to care, as the incentive will be for the primary carer or partner who earns less to take up the option. 

“Either way it is important that employers are given clear guidance to offer any employee taking part in the scheme a clear ‘right to return’, reducing the risk of discrimination against those who have part. 

“The government also needs to adopt the other measures IPPR recommended last week to safeguard the nation’s children, including increased Universal Credit and Child Benefit, guaranteed access to online learning resources and priority for use of open green spaces.” 

IPPR is also calling for wider changes to ensure that millions of children are not unfairly disadvantaged by the measures to combat the Covid-19 health crisis including:

  • An increase in the child element of Universal Credit and child tax credit by £10 a week, and removal of the two-child limit and the current benefit cap – boosting income for families receiving these benefits by £1,400 a year on average
  • One-off emergency Child Benefit payments of £30 each for 12.7 million children, and an extra £5 per week for each child throughout the crisis, to put money in the pockets of families who need it urgently, and in recognition of higher costs of caring for and entertaining children at home
  • Steps to ensure all children can access learning resources online, with mobile network providers asked to extend free data for use of BBC and other educational websites, and an emergency Digital Access Fund to provide tablets or other digital devices to households where children cannot get online
  • Owners of private green spaces to be urged to offer them for public use, especially near crowded town and city neighbourhoods, and local authorities to encourage priority for use of public parks for children without access to gardens or other open spaces

IPPR's briefing, Children of the Pandemic, which called for the right to paid parental leave for those who need to look after children, was published on March 31st. 

ENDS 

CONTACT 

David Wastell, Head of News and Communications:  [email protected]  

NOTES TO EDITORS 

  1. The government's guidance for the coronavirus retention scheme was updated on April 4 to add the following paragraph:  
    Employees with caring responsibilities 
    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.
  1. The IPPR briefing paper, Children of the Pandemic, by Clare McNeil, Henry Parkes, Rachel Statham, Dean Hochlaf and Carsten Jung, published on March 31st, is available for download at: http://www.ippr.org/research/publications/children-of-the-pandemic
  2. A press release issued at the time is at https://www.ippr.org/news-and-media/press-releases/covid-19-emergency-support-package-needed-to-save-children-of-the-pandemic-from-becoming-its-unseen-victims-ippr
  3. IPPR is the UK’s re-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.  www.ippr.org