Can I be furloughed if my child's school is shut and I can't work?

SCHOOLS in the worst-hit Covid areas will remain closed from January – but what are working parents' rights to furlough, pay and time off?

Thousands of schools in 49 areas will stay shut for at least two weeks after the Christmas holidays due to spiralling coronavirus cases.

The only exceptions are for vulnerable kids and children of key workers, who will still be able to attend school.

The affected areas include most of London, Essex, Kent, and a handful of areas in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East Sussex.

Elsewhere across England – in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 and some lesser-hit Tier 4 areas – primary schools will return on January 4 as planned.

If your child's school will remain shut and you can no longer work, we explain your work rights.

Areas where schools will remain shut

The return date of secondary school kids has already been pushed back two weeks, and any schools in the below areas will be reviewed beforehand to see if they can open.

The areas with primary schools which will stay closed too from January 4 are:

  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Barnet
  • Bexley
  • Brent
  • Bromley
  • Croydon
  • Ealing
  • Enfield
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Havering
  • Hillingdon
  • Hounslow
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Merton
  • Newham
  • Richmond-Upon-Thames
  • Southwark
  • Sutton
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Westminster


  • Brentwood
  • Epping Forest
  • Castle Point
  • Basildon
  • Rochford
  • Harlow
  • Chelmsford
  • Braintree
  • Maldon
  • Southend on Sea
  • Thurrock


  • Dartford
  • Gravesham
  • Sevenoaks
  • Medway
  • Ashford
  • Maidstone
  • Tonbridge and Malling
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • Swale

East Sussex

  • Hastings
  • Rother


  • Milton Keynes


  • Watford
  • Broxbourne
  • Hertsmere
  • Three Rivers

Can you be furloughed if you're child's school is closed?

If you're unable to work due to school closures, you could be put on furlough, The Treasury has confirmed to The Sun.

There's no guarantee though as it's down to your employer to decide, but it could be worth asking.

Earlier this month, the coronavirus job retention scheme was extended for another month until the end of April 2021.

Workers on furlough will get 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 a month.

The scheme was due to be reviewed in January, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he was bringing this forward to give businesses clarity going into the new year.

Workers can be on any type of contract, meaning you could still be furloughed if you are part-time or on a contract.

You don't need to have been furloughed before to be eligible for the scheme, and the business you work for doesn't need to have used it before to use it now.

But in order to qualify, you need to have been on your employer's payroll by 11.59pm, October 30 2020.

Can you get time off work if your child's school is closed?

If your employer won't furlough you, parents are still entitled to take time off work to look after children – and you won't face disciplinary action or lose your job.

This is known as "dependant leave" which allows mums and dads to take time off to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency.

The downside is that you may not be paid, unless your employer specifically says you will.

You may be able to negotiate paid time off, but it's down to the discretion of your employer.

Workers may also be able to negotiate taking holiday or lieu days – but again, it's up to your boss.

Crucially, your employer can't make you work extra hours or make up the missed time.

You can take off up to 18 weeks unpaid leave before your child is 18.

Alternatively, if you can do your job from home, you may be able to change your working hours to fit in childcare duties and get paid as usual.

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