The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 April 2021, and there are monthly deadlines for submitting claims. Claims for furlough days in December must be submitted by Thursday 14 January at 11:59pm.

Employers can claim for any employees who were employed on 30 October 2020, as long as they have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission for that employee to HMRC between 20 March and 30 October 2020. This includes employees who have not been furloughed previously and those who are unable to work or are working reduced hours due to caring responsibilities, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school closures.

As a construction worker, am I classified as a critical worker and can I send my children to school?

The Government has advised that children whose parents “whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU transition response” and vulnerable children will be eligible for school places.  This does not explicitly include construction workers, although there is potentially some scope for individuals working on critical infrastructure projects (in this instance you should liaise with your school).  A point to note is that the guidance is slightly different from the first lockdown in that “children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required”.

The FIS continues to raise the concerns of members with Government and through the Construction Leadership Council of the extreme challenge for individuals are expected to go out to work, but also have childcare responsibilities.

A full list of “critical workers” is available here.

Can put employees on furlough who can’t work because of childcare issues?

Experts from Citation have reviewed current guidance and updates that have been published since the new lockdown has been announced. Here, they highlight the most important points that employers need to know.

It’s always been the case that employees with childcare issues could be put on furlough, but as in the case of shielding employees, it wasn’t clear whether they could be put on furlough simply because their childcare issues prevented them from coming into work even where work was available for them.  HMRC’s guidance on the furlough scheme confirms :

“Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they are:

  • unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), including employees that need to look after children”

Yesterday this guidance was updated to read that employees could be furloughed where they have:

“caring responsibilities resulting 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 their household”.

This specifically highlights school closures and those who have to stay at home because they are caring for a vulnerable member of their household. However, unlike the change made to the guidance on shielding employees before Christmas, the guidance on furloughing employees with caring responsibilities has not been changed to clarify that these employees can be furloughed regardless of whether the business has suffered a wider impact from COVID.

It may well be the case that the omission to clarify this is just an omission and the Treasury expects employers to use the furlough scheme where employees have childcare issues even where there is work available for them. However, in the absence of a clear indication that this is the case, we would advise contacting HMRC online to obtain confirmation that your proposed use of the scheme is appropriate and to retain this for future audit purposes.

For further advice on Furlough you can access the Citation helpline via 0121 707 0077.