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COVID-19: Childcare and key worker absences

Feedback from data centre operators.

We were asked by Government to provide feedback from the sector on whether school and childcare provision for key workers is effective in enabling those in key roles to continue at work.  Uptake of school places for this purpose has been lower than expected and Govt needs to understand whether further clarification or policy adjustments are needed.

We polled the sector and in summary most operators are finding the provision adequate or are managing without using their allocated school places.  However, implementation is inconsistent.  The factors that seem to be contributing to low uptake and/or staff absence are summarised below.

The door will remain open for you to provide feedback so if you want to raise any issues please get in touch.

Factors limiting uptake or contributing to key worker absence

  • Flexible working: In many cases operators have implemented flexible arrangements so that some key workers can work from home (not all key workers have to be on site all of the time).
  • Gap in provision: There are non-critical workers who do have to be on site, but schools are often only accepting children if both parents are key workers.  So this will increase absence among key workers to look after children.
  • Gov guidance: People are generally following government instructions and avoiding sending children to school unless then absolutely have to – i.e. doing fewer shifts, working part time, swapping shifts etc.
  • Time lag: There may be increase in demand over time as in short term people may be able to muddle through. If short term arrangements cannot be sustained and if things stretch into summer term parents might have to think again.
  • Awareness: people may not realise they are key workers. There have been some unhelpful communications that suggest data centre contractors are not included under “data infrastructure” on the key workers list. They are, as are cleaners and suppliers.   
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