Women have been on the frontline of this crisis – as workers, as carers and as parents. Employers must give them more support. The TUC, which represents trade unions across the UK, has published its findings…
As restrictions begin to lift and the summer holidays approach, there is no let up in sight for working mums. The relentless juggling act of childcare, work and other responsibilities combined with reduced options due to the impact of the pandemic means mums are being forced to construct a patchwork of care just to get through the holidays.
Working with MotherPukka, we surveyed over 36,000 mums asking them how they were going to manage childcare and work during the upcoming summer holidays. The results showed the struggle mums are faced with:
- Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of mums with primary aged children do not have sufficient childcare for the summer holidays. This rises to three quarters (76 per cent) for single parents.
- Three in five (60 per cent) will find managing childcare harder over the summer holidays this year than in previous years.
Why are things tougher for working mums this year?
Mums told us that due to the pandemic, they had fewer options this summer. Nearly a fifth of those who would find things more difficult said they had already used up all their annual leave during previous lockdowns to manage home schooling.
A fifth of respondents said that they do not have their usual network of friends and family outside of their household for support. And 1 in 8 do not have access to the holiday clubs and school play schemes they would usually rely on because they’ve not restarted as restrictions have lifted.
How are mums coping this year?
Mums are having to construct a patchwork of care to get through the holidays.
Many told us that they are relying on being able to work more flexibly to help them cope. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents told us they would be working more flexibly during the holidays so that they could manage childcare. Two in five (39 per cent) said they would be combining working from home and childcare, and over a quarter (27 per cent) said they would be working more flexibly.
Almost half were having to rely on friends and family throughout the holidays. For one in eight they have little choice but to take unpaid leave or reduce their hours, taking a financial hit and causing further stress and anxiety.
But while many mums told us that the holidays were going to be harder this year versus previous years, mums also told us that the juggling act of managing work, childcare and other responsibilities, as well as the cost of childcare is always a struggle.
Why do things need to change?
The crisis has shone a light on the patchwork of care that enable mums to maintain their employment.
Dropping hours, taking unpaid leave, not having supportive and flexible workplace and parental leave policies all further compounds pay inequality as highlighted through gender pay gap reporting. It also leaves women worried about their jobs particularly during the pandemic.
And the childcare sector itself is in crisis, with thousands of closures of childcare providers and the loss of tens of thousands of childcare places over the course of the pandemic.
All of this points to women being forced out of the labour market, pushing back women’s progression and conditions in the workplace.
What needs to change?
We need better workplace policies to support working parents.
With the summer holidays just around the corner employers must ensure that those with caring responsibilities who’ve been able to work from home during the pandemic can continue to do so.
But working from home should not mean working all hours of the day. Workloads need to be manageable, and workers should have a right to disconnect.
For those who cannot work from home, employers need to assess what other flexibility can be made available with no loss of pay. Employers should review their current flexible working policies immediately, consulting with employees and trade unions, ensuring that working parents who need flexibility now are supported.
But this should not just be a short-term response to the pandemic. Employers should adopt flexibility by default. Employers should consider what flexibility is available in different roles and ensure this is included in all job adverts going forward.
The government must help working families balance paid work and childcare, focussing on policies that drive progress in equalising care between mums and dads so that women are not disproportionately affected by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. This must include:
- Introducing a legal right to flexible work for all workers from their first day in a job and a duty to include available flexibility in job adverts. Flexible working can take lots of different forms, including having predictable or set hours, working from home, job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time working.
- Introducing 10 days paid carer’s leave, on full pay, from day one in the job, to support all working parents. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children.
- Investing in in good quality, affordable childcare to support working parents and help the sector recover.