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Zurich offers UK staff 'lockdown leave' on full pay

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
A logo sign outside of a facility occupied by the Zurich Insurance Group in Vienna, Austria, on September 6, 2018. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA)
The insurance company Zurich has offered parents facing childcare emergencies two weeks' paid leave. Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA.

Insurance company Zurich has offered parents facing childcare emergencies and others with caring responsibilities two weeks' leave on full pay.

The announcement comes as the shutdown of schools across the UK this week has left many parents struggling to balance work and childcare.

Zurich (ZURN.SW) confirmed it would give staff an extra 10 days’ leave, to be taken either individually or consecutively. The move was announced for parents, but Zurich said it would also be available for anyone with other caring commitments.

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s head of HR, said: “With schools closed, working parents will be frantically trying to juggle their jobs and childcare responsibilities.

“We already offer flexibility for employees who want to change their working hours or structure some days differently. But for parents trying to balance work, childcare and home schooling, this may not be enough.

“We’re helping our employees get through this crisis by offering mums and dads paid time-off so they can look after their health and their family.”

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak told £4.6bn lockdown support won’t go far enough

Labour welcomed the latest government guidance on furlough options for parents left in the lurch by the shutdown of education facilities.

The government’s advice on the job retention scheme states that workers can be furloughed if caring responsibilities arising from COVID-19 mean they are unable to work or working reduced hours.

WATCH: Half-term ‘a long way’ away as parents take on childcare responsibilities

It gives the example of “caring for children who are at home as a result of school or childcare facilities closing,” as well as caring for vulnerable individuals in workers’ households. Staff are advised to speak to employers about “whether they plan to place staff on furlough,” with no obligation on firms to do so, however.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the government had “listened to Labour,” which called for updated guidance on Sunday.

“Now we need further action to promote the scheme to parents and employers, especially the flexible element, and better communication of the critical workers list. The cut-off date for furlough eligibility should be brought forward too,” she said.

A survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) earlier this year found one in six mothers had to work as a result of school and childcare closures during the first nationwide lockdown.

WATCH: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

READ MORE: Most UK services firms facing slump even before lockdown