All childcare facilities and schools have been closed indefinitely, but nannying in private homes appears to be a grey area, although the UK government listed the profession specifically as one which could be entitled to use the furlough scheme.
Emma Lyle, who runs a Facebook group for the nanny community in Edinburgh, said a lot of members had been told by their employers that they either had to turn up to work – even if they have underlying health problems – or lose their job.
Others have been told by their employer that they are no longer needed because the parents are working from home, or have been sacked without being able to say goodbye to the children they have cared for.
Lyle, who is not affected by the issue herself as the family she works for are key workers and she is happy to continue to look after their children, said: “Some employers are refusing to furlough their nanny as they say there is still work available for them even though neither parent is classed as a key worker. The whole thing has left us all feeling unrecognised in our profession.
“These nannies have to go to work, yet can’t adhere to the two-metre guideline due to the nature of the job. Children are needing more comfort than ever just now.”
She said that some nannies have warned parents that they do not feel safe in their home as the parents have admitted their children are mixing with other families at weekends, yet have still been told that they must attend work. Others have been initially furloughed, but then quickly called back by their employers who are struggling to cope with looking after their offspring.
Lyle said: “I have had nannies on the phone, crying their eyes out because they don’t feel safe and don’t know what to do. I think the issue in a lot of these cases is that the parents are struggling to spend so much time with their children and can’t cope.”
She added: “Some working nannies have told me that their families are sending their children over to other people’s houses for playdates at the weekends, or having children to theirs as they are finding the weekends to be long days. If they are not even going to try to follow the social distancing rules, it is not fair to expect nannies to come into their homes.”
The UK Government states that nannies can be furloughed if they “are paid through PAYE and were on their payroll on or before 28 February, 2020”.
Maria Culley, spokeswoman for Nanny UK, said: “We have had nannies telling us that they have lost their job, or that they have been told they have to come into work or they will be sacked. It is up to the parents as employers to request furlough.”
Neil Maclean, partner and head of the employment practice at law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn, said: “While no employee is entitled to insist on being furloughed, an employee can ask to be furloughed and, if the employee is willing to accept a reduction in pay to 80 per cent of basic salary during furlough, then in most cases employers have nothing to lose by agreeing to the request. With children stuck at home and parents trying to work, a nanny’s employer may prefer the nanny to continue to come to work.”
However, he added: “If an employer insists on an employee attending work and the employee reasonably believes they cannot do so safely (which, given the government Covid-19 guidance must be the case for nannies), then the employee would be entitled to refuse to attend. If the employer dismissed the employee for refusing to come to work or subjected the employee to any other detriment then the employee may have a claim under the Employment Rights Act 1996 for either unfair dismissal (if dismissed) or unlawful detriment (if not paid).
“As a working parent myself, I would not want a nanny to be coming in and out of my household each day during the Covid-19 crisis.”