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Home | COVID-19 | Coronavirus – if you need to be off work to care for someone

Coronavirus – if you need to be off work to care for someone

13th January 2021

You might be able to get help if you’re off work caring for someone who is normally looked after another way. This might be because your child’s school is closed, your child is self-isolating or an older person’s carer can’t come.

You might be able to get:some or all of your pay from your employer

time off without using your annual leave

a self-isolation support grant from your council if you can’t work and will lose income because you’re looking after a child who has been asked to self-isolate

Check if you can be ‘furloughed’

You can ask your employer if they’ll put you on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – known as being ‘furloughed’. You’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

You can find out how the scheme works.

If your employer says you have to work

Think about whether you’d be able to do your job flexibly. For example, you might be able to work:

You can find out what kind of flexible working your employer offers by:

If you want to work in a way that your employer doesn’t already offer, you should still ask for it. Some employers are willing to let staff try new ways of working because of coronavirus.

You should check how to talk to your employer about flexible working before asking.

You could also consider using annual leave. Some employers let you ‘buy’ extra days of annual leave – you’ll be paid less but get more days off.

Ask for unpaid leave until you can work again

If you can’t work flexibly, the best way to keep your job is to ask for unpaid leave with no fixed end date. This is called ‘indefinite unpaid leave’.

It’s a good idea to ask your employer to reply in writing. This means you have a record of what they agreed if there’s a problem later.

If your employer says no

The law says they must consider letting you have some unpaid leave, but only for a limited period of time.

If you’re looking after a child, you might be able to get ‘parental leave’. If you can’t, ask for ‘time off for a dependant’ which is a different right.

If you’re caring for an adult, you might be able to get ‘time off for a dependant’.

Check if you can get parental leave

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least a year, you can have unpaid parental leave for each of your children. You get 18 weeks for each child – this is for the whole period until they’re 18. Your child’s other parent can also take 18 weeks.

You can’t take parental leave if you’re furloughed.

The law says you can only take 4 weeks’ leave per child each year. You also have to tell your employer 21 days before you want to be off work. It’s a good idea to check your employment contract and policies – your employer might be more generous than this. For example, you might be allowed more than 4 weeks’ leave in a year.

Even if your contract only allows the legal minimum, you can still ask your employer for what you need. They might be willing to agree because of the unusual situation.

For example, you could ask to start parental leave straight away instead of waiting 21 days.

It’s a good idea to ask your employer to reply to your request for parental leave in writing.

Check if you can get time off for a dependant

You can have some unpaid time off to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with a dependant. The time off has to be ‘reasonable’ and you can only have enough time to deal with the urgent problem.

A dependant includes:

You need to tell your employer as soon as possible that you’ll need to be off. You also need to say why you need the time off and when you expect to be back.
Try to get their reply in writing as it will help to have a record if there’s a problem later.

Check if you can get a self-isolation support grant

You might be able to get a self-isolation support grant from your local council if you can’t work because you’re looking after a child who has been asked to self-isolate.

To get the grant you must be:

You might also be able to get the grant if your council thinks you would be eligible for Universal Credit if you claimed it.

You can find out more and apply on your local council’s website. Find your local council on

If you need money

You should check if you can get benefits.

If you already get benefits you might be able to get food or supermarket vouchers instead of free school meals – find out how to get food or vouchers.

Can’t find the answer to your question? Call our freephone number 0300 303 4321 or email us by filling in our online enquiry form.

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