Furloughing staff who are unable to go into workplace or work from home while work is available

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 5 February 2021
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors
Issues covered: Furlough; Coronavirus

Can employers furlough employees who are unable to work from home, but need to stay home for childcare reasons, or because they are vulnerable, even though there is work available for them?

Seamus: Yes, an employer can, employers can furlough employees on that basis. The only caveat is within the guidance is as long as, for instance the childcare responsibilities are due to COVID-19 or coronavirus. So a lot of circumstances have arisen there. I know that there's huge issues for parents that are trying to work from home, that also have their children at home because of school closures, and trying to manage the various competing interests that that they have and it's hugely difficult for parents and for those employees. So as long as there's a valid reason and there is the ability to place the employee on furlough.

But the reality is that for a lot of these instances, there's still work to be done and business still needs to take over. And again, we're operating from the point of view that we are trying to make sure that the business is surviving in order to avoid redundancies or high levels of redundancies. For me, that's really looking to see if there is agreement that can be reached, possibly, that you vary the working hours permit, and parents or employees to maybe work different hours. You might have one parent works in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one sort of late in the afternoon and things like that. It's about, you know, being flexible.

But ultimately, the guidance is clear that you can look at furloughing those employees and again anyone that is vulnerable and unable to come to work because of their illness or if they're CEV. They can also be placed on the on the furlough scheme. A bit of a risk that if you refuse to do that that it could amount to some form of discrimination, particularly in and around parents. If it's a mom that has the issues or difficulties, you could be potentially looking at some form of discrimination on the basis of gender, or possibly a disability and discrimination if you're looking at somebody with underlying issues under CEV.


This article is correct at 05/02/2021

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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

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