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Returning to work

At the moment, anyone who can work from home should continue to do so. However, with more businesses now able to open again, you may be asked to go back into the workplace. If you have concerns about childcare or safety when you go back, this page has further information that can help.

Can I get critical childcare?

What is critical childcare?

If you’re a key worker and you have no other way of getting childcare, you can ask your local authority for access to critical childcare.

Who counts as a key worker?

It’s up to the local council to decide who counts as a keyworker. In general, however, keyworkers include:

  • health and care workers 
  • public sector workers providing emergency or critical welfare services, such as Fire, Police, Prisons, Social Workers and workers in any of the 13 critical national infrastructure sectors (you can see the full list in the guidance here
  • education and childcare staff, including support staff, who are providing education and childcare for other key workers
  • other workers in the public, private or third sector without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland. This can include other education and childcare staff who are preparing schools and early learning and childcare services for re-opening.

Contact your local authority to find out if you qualify.

You can find out more about critical childcare here.

I’m a keyworker but my partner isn’t, can we get critical childcare?

Most local authorities aren’t providing critical childcare for people whose partner is not a key worker, even if that person also needs to return to work. However, it’s worth contacting your local authority to double check. You may also be able to use a childminder or outdoor nurseries (see childcare options below).

My child has additional support needs, can they get critical childcare?

Children with complex additional support needs are also eligible for critical childcare. If they are currently not getting critical childcare, speak to your local authority about how they can help. 

How long will critical childcare be available for?

Critical childcare for key workers will continue to be provided until children's daycare reopens, including throughout the summer holidays.

I'm not a key worker, what are my childcare options?

In order to reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus, the advice remains that children should be looked after at home and, where possible, employees should also work from home. However, this is difficult if you need to go back to work and cannot work from home.

Can I use a registered childminder?

Registered childminders were able to open from 3 June but we don’t expect that they will all reopen immediately. Some childminders may need to take time to prepare to reopen safely, and others may choose not to reopen, for example, if they have a vulnerable family member at home. 

Registered childminders have been asked to limit the number of families that use their service, to 4 households at any one time. For some childminders, this might mean that they can’t accept all of the children that would normally attend.

Registered childminders are also being asked to prioritise childcare for keyworker families and vulnerable children. They are able to allocate any additional space at their discretion. If you previously used a childminder, you can get in touch to find out if they will be reopening and if they will have space. 

If you don't usually use a registered childminder for your child but you'd like to use one, you should contact them to find out if they have space.

Find out more about using a childminder here.

Can I send my child to nursery?

At present, only fully outdoor childcare settings can open. Other ELC settings are expected to reopen in Phase 3, from 15 July onwards, as long as the virus is sufficiently under control. You can find out more about ELC settings reopening here.

There are 26 fully outdoor childcare settings in Scotland. These settings are being asked to prioritise keyworker families and vulnerable children first. However, they may have extra places available. If your child normally attends one of these settings, you can get in touch with them to find out if they will be reopening and how they will be allocating any extra available places. 

If your child doesn’t normally attend a fully outdoor setting, but you would like to use one, you can contact them to find out if they have space.

Can a member of my extended household look after my children?

Yes, if you’re part of an extended household then any adult in the extended household you are part of can look after your children, even if you don’t live with them. You can find out more about who can form extended households here.

Can a friend, family member, nanny or a babysitter look after my children?

Unfortunately, friends, family members, babysitters and nannies can’t offer childcare unless you meet specific criteria. You can only ask someone from another household to look after your children if:

  • you are a keyworker and cannot access other suitable childcare
  • they are part of your extended household
  • you or your children have on-going regular health or social care needs
  • you have health issues that mean you can’t look after them
  • a one-off emergency comes up, for example, you need to attend a medical appointment, are ill or are having a baby.

The person you ask can be a friend or family member, or a babysitter or nanny but they shouldn't be shielding or in an ‘at risk’ category for coronavirus (that is, pregnant, over 70 or with an underlying health condition). If you need someone to look after your children on more than one occasion in these situations, try to make sure it’s always the same person.

Can I leave a young child with their older brother or sister?

There’s no law about what age your child can be left at home. However, you mustn’t leave a child on their own if they'll be at risk. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) recommends:

  • babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
  • children under 16 shouldn't be left alone overnight.

The NSPCC website has more advice about deciding when it's safe for a child to be left alone.

I've been asked to go back to work but can't get childcare, what are my rights?

Who can be asked to go back into the workplace?

Currently the advice is that if you can work from home, you should. This applies to all sectors and occupations, including key workers. If you can’t work from home and your employer needs you to come back into the workplace, they should talk to you about this first so you can be included in any decisions where possible. There’s useful information about returning to work on the ACAS website.

Can I ask to continue working from home?

Currently the advice is that if you can work from home, you should. So if it’s possible to do your job from home, you should continue to do this. The Scottish Government is asking employers to be as supportive and flexible as they can, to allow people with caring responsibilities to carry on working from home. You can see the joint statement from the Scottish Government and Scottish Trade Unions Congress (STUC) about fair work during the coronavirus pandemic here.

Can I ask for a reduction in hours, or to work at different times of the day?

The Scottish Government is asking employers to be flexible with employees who are currently unable to return to work, working from home or are working under different arrangements due to childcare commitments. This means they should consider any requests for paid leave, reduced hours or different working patterns. Employers are being asked to take account of travel to work considerations and childcare arrangements, so should listen to your requests and help you if possible.
 

Can I ask to be furloughed?

If you’re currently on furlough, you can ask to be kept on furlough for a bit longer. If you’re a parent who has been on extended leave, you can ask to be furloughed now. You can find out more at the UK Government website.

Can I get parental leave?

You may be able to take unpaid parental leave. You can find out more about this on the Scottish Government website.

Can I take time off as holiday or unpaid leave?

You may be able to arrange with your employer to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave. You can find out more about this on the ACAS website

Can I be made redundant if I can’t go back to work because of childcare issues?

During the coronavirus pandemic, you still have the same employment rights. These include your rights around redundancy. If you believe you’ve been unfairly selected for redundancy, or that your employer didn’t follow a fair redundancy process, you can appeal. You can find out more about your redundancy rights at the ACAS website.

Can I be made redundant because I chose to be furloughed?

Your rights as an employee are not affected by being on furlough. This includes your redundancy rights, which means your employer can’t make you redundant just because you chose to be furloughed.

What can I do if I feel I’ve been discriminated against because I'm caring for children?

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against or stereotyped because of your sex, you should raise this issue with your employer. The ACAS website has more advice on what to do if you believe you’re being discriminated against.

What financial support is available if I can’t go back to work or have to work reduced hours?

You may be able to apply for Universal Credit if your income is reduced, or you're not working. You may also be able to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund. Our page on financial support has more information.

What if I have safety concerns?

Is it safe for me to go back to work?

Employers must make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers and anyone else who visits.

The Scottish Government is working with employers, trade unions, regulators and others to develop guidance to help different sectors create safe working environments for when people return to work.

As each workplace is different, businesses are being asked to work with trade unions or workforce representatives to decide how best to do this.

You can read the Scottish Government’s guidance for the following sectors here:

Guidance for other sectors will be added here as it’s published.

If you have concerns about returning to work, talk to your employer. They should listen to your concerns and take steps to protect you if at all possible. For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that you can avoid using public transport, or arrange for you to work different hours temporarily to avoid peak time travel. The ACAS website has more information

If you're disabled you can also request reasonable adjustments to help you do your job.

What if don’t think my workplace is safe?

If you’re worried that your workplace isn’t safe, you have rights under employment law. The ACAS website has more information. If you’re a member of a trade union, you can also speak to your trade union representative. You can also raise enquiries about working safely with the Health and Safety Executive and with Local Authority Environmental Health Officers.

Can I be made redundant if I don’t go back to work because of safety concerns?

During the coronavirus pandemic, you still have the same employment rights. These include your rights around redundancy. If you believe you’ve been unfairly selected for redundancy, or that your employer didn’t follow a fair redundancy process, you can appeal. You can find out more about your redundancy rights at the ACAS website

I’m shielding, do I have to return to work?

No. If you received a shielding letter from NHS Scotland because you’re at very high risk of severe illness, show this to your employer as evidence you can’t work outside your home. You don’t need to get a separate fit note from your GP. Find out more about shielding and what you can do if you’re worried about money because you can’t work at the MyGov.scot website.

Someone else in my home is shielding, do I have to return to work?

If you have any concerns about returning to work, talk to your employer about it. You may be able to arrange to be kept on furlough, to get paid or unpaid leave, to continue to work from home, or to change your hours so you don’t have to use public transport at busy times. There’s more useful information about returning to work on the ACAS website.