If you’re being asked to furlough employees with child-caring responsibilities, here’s what you need to know.
Alternative arrangements – you may ask them whether they have any in place. If they have, you may enquire as to why they are not able to use them. You can’t insist that they utilise those options, particularly if their reasons for not doing so are due to health and safety concerns for their child.
Primary child-caring – while you have no obligation to offer furlough, bear in mind that tribunals are still willing to accept that women take the primary child-caring role. In turning down a woman’s request for furlough to look after a child, a claim for indirect discrimination could follow – your refusal may need to be objectively justified to avoid liability.
Furlough can be used to support individuals with childcare – obviously the individual would need to be eligible for furlough to utilise furlough leave. Clearly you would need to carefully manage the expectations of other colleagues in respect of their requests for furlough.
Other options – if you’re keen to avoid furlough, you can remind the individual of their opportunity to take holiday or unpaid time off for emergency care, or unpaid parental leave where eligible.
Given the potential discrimination risks, always take advice from your expert lawyer before making a decision. Get in touch if you’re unsure how to approach these situations.