FAQs on supporting staff with childcare responsibilities


1) Some NHS staff have been unable to prove essential worker status. What support is available?
A template letter is available from NHS England and NHS Improvement, which can be used to support staff in confirming their essential worker status with education establishments.

2) How can staff be supported with the challenges of working from home?
NHS organisations should encourage line managers to discuss the caring or childcare responsibilities of employees and adapt the duties and/or working hours of home workers to accommodate these. You can read further information on supporting staff at home and work in our COVID-19 guidance.

3) Our staff are finding that some childcare services are still closed rather than reopening with safety arrangements in place. How can this be mitigated?
We understand that a number of childcare providers may be unable to re-open at this time, or open more widely. Parents can contact their local authority (LA) if their usual childcare provider is not open.

We also understand that some LAs have been scoping where there are gaps in the provision of childcare, and are looking to work with providers to scale up provision where possible. NHS organisations may wish to contact LAs with any concerns around provision to support this.

Staff can access their local Family Information Service, which is regarded as a first point of contact for updated information on childcare provision, using the childcare finder on the Coram Family and Childcare website

4) The financial burden for staff at the moment around childcare is concerning. How can staff be supported?
Employers may wish to flag tax-free childcare options for staff who are parents of children 11 or under. More detail about key information on tax-free childcare for employers can be found in our  guidance. Many organisations also offer salary sacrifice schemes and should ensure these are promoted to staff during this time.

Staff can also be signposted to the Childcare Choices website, where they can check if they are eligible for free childcare.

You can find tips in our financial wellbeing section, as well as  guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement on financial wellbeing.

5) How will childcare provision be affected by local lockdowns?
Local lockdowns and individual nursery school closures are possible and may result in children being unable to attend these settings.

On 21 September, the government announced an exemption from local lockdown measures for childcare arrangements covering both formal and informal caring arrangements, for children under 14 and for vulnerable children. This exemption acknowledges that the restriction of inter-household mixing in areas of local intervention could cause hardship for families, and may affect the ability of essential workers, such as NHS front line staff, to do their job. 

Staff who rely on care in informal settings such as through partners, relatives or friends are still likely to be affected by government policies on social distancing as well as health concerns for those most vulnerable. Further guidance is available on the Gov.uk website and is available for medium, high or very high COVID-19 alert levels.

6) If staff have a child(ren) sent home to self-isolate, do they need to do the same?

If their child(ren) is/are not symptomatic, neither the parents nor anyone else in their household need to self-isolate beyond that child(ren). However, this changes of course if anyone in the household shows symptoms of COVID-19. 

Staff who are usually required to physically attend a place of work to carry out their duties, as well as those who currently work from home, may struggle to do so if their child(ren) is required to self-isolate.

Employers should exercise discretion and use the flexibilities they already have in place to support staff. Where staff are not self-isolating but are absent from work due to childcare issues, employers should refer to their local policies and procedures to determine pay.

More information can be found in our terms and conditions FAQ, under caring commitments.

7) Some staff are worried about the impact the situation is having on their children and this is in turn causing them stress. Are there resources to support?

There are resources that have been developed to support both parents' and children's mental health and wellbeing. Please see below.

  • The every mind matters site has expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your own mental health and wellbeing and that of children and young people.
  • NHS England and NHS Improvement produced a guide focused around balancing home working and home schooling at the start of the pandemic which links to useful resources on a variety of wellbeing topics.
  • The www.people.NHS.uk site includes links to further resources such as free NHS access to Cityparents, an online programme of support and resources. And, from October, Place2Be will provide recorded webinars and an art room package tailored for key worker children and their parents/carers.

8) Is there a possibility all the schools/nurseries in our locality could be closed e.g. as in Leicester earlier this year? If so, what would this mean for key worker provision? 

Schools would only close in this way in the event of a Tier 4 lockdown (as seen in Leicester) or second national lockdown. The intention is that key worker provision would be put in place as before, and NHS England and NHS Improvement would be notified of this event by DfE to ensure smooth escalation of any issues accessing that provision.

9) What if a member of staff has been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable? NEW - 9 November

Employers will not be told directly if staff are in the clinically extremely vulnerable category.  Clinically extremely vulnerable people will be sent a letter by their GP or hospital clinicians. It is vital that managers check in with their staff regularly and ask if their circumstances may have changed, review any risk assessment undertaken and provide the appropriate support to staff. Our Supporting our most vulnerable people web page has guidance on supporting staff with underlying health conditions and those who are in higher-risk groups.

10) How will the national lockdown running from 5 November - 2 December affect childcare? NEW - 9 November

The Government has published further guidance on the arrangements for the national lockdown. 

11) What support is available for keyworker families during the pandemic? NEW - 10 November

Place2Be has published a free programme to support the mental health and relationship building of keyworkers and their children. The programme, which is available to all NHS staff until 31 December, includes a series of webinars and an arts and crafts resource pack for parents/carers and children to use together.


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