Arrangements during January 2021

In light of the announcement of the new lockdown arrangements implemented with effect from 05 January, requiring schools deliver on line learning until at least the end of January, the revised arrangements available to parents to cover childcare responsibilities will be extended to cover this period.

As is currently the case, where it is possible, employees should work from home to help facilitate these responsibilities. Where this is not possible, special leave will be available to impacted employees, subject to service delivery. This provision will be kept under review to ensure appropriate guidance in light of any changes to the position.

Schools will be open for children of key workers and the most vulnerable.

As a consequence of positive cases of COVID-19 in school settings, Health Protection Teams are instructing specific groups of children and staff to self-isolate. In certain situations, this can lead to whole school closures.

While parents of children who have been told to self-isolate do not need to isolate themselves (unless they or a member of their household tests positive or has symptoms), some may find it difficult to balance childcare difficulties with work while the child is self-isolating.

Separate guidance is available for cases where the employee themselves are also asked to self-isolate.

There is a legal requirement to provide a period of unpaid time off for dependents. Since March we have recognised the unique challenges this pandemic presents individuals and have responded by providing exceptional levels of support through paid special leave for various reasons.

Where employees are working from home, they will normally be able to cover childcare while they are working. They may require some flexibility of when they work depending on the needs of the child. This should be discussed and agreed with you.

It is recognised that the situation may be more challenging for employees who do not normally work from home or who are unable to work from home due to the nature of their job. Managers need to be flexible and explore the options available to the employee if they are unable to cover childcare responsibilities (remembering that if they are self-isolating this must be within the household).

You should consider the following:

  • Can the employee work from home for the isolation or closure period?
  • Can they use annual leave to cover the period of absence?
  • Can they share childcare with a partner or other adults in their household?
  • Can you be flexible in start and finish times?
  • Can the employee do a specific piece of project work from home?
  • Can the employee work a reduced week?

In exceptional circumstances, where childcare arrangements cannot be met, you should allow paid special leave, but only where all the options above have been considered. Where the employee is able to share responsibility for childcare, special leave may be considered for the employee's share if none of the options outlined are achievable, eg an employee needs childcare cover for 3 days – 1½ days special leave would be granted with the expectation that parents work together to share responsibility for the additional period requiring cover.