HMRC have updated is guidance to confirm that an employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees who have caring responsibilities as a result of COVID-19. This includes employees who are now unable to work (including from home) because of school closures.
Prior to this updated guidance, it was not entirely clear whether the furlough grant could be used for those who were unable to work solely because of childcare responsibilities as a result of COVID-19 and so this clarification is very helpful. However, it should be noted that this guidance only goes so far as to say the scheme “can” be used and not that it must be used, which means that employers are not obliged to furlough employees who are now unable to work due to school closures. In addition to this, currently, only employees who were employed as at 23 September 2020 are eligible to be furloughed and so this guidance will not be helpful for individuals who have only very recently started employment.