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Majority of mums with childcare issues turned down for furlough

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Seven in ten mums juggling work and childcare amid school closures have been turned down after requesting furlough, a major survey has revealed.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of working mums who applied for furlough following the latest national lockdown school closures have been refused, a poll of 50,000 has revealed.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) allows employers to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare.

But the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said it is concerned that some employers are refusing furlough, leaving mums in an “impossible situation” where they’re forced to reduce their hours, take unpaid leave or leave the workforce altogether.

The TUC which carried out the poll of 50,000, also said many mums are missing out on the financial lifeline as it’s “not promoted to parents”.

The survey revealed that 78% hadn’t been offered furlough and 40% said they were unaware that the furlough scheme was available to parents affected by school or nursery closures.

As a result, many told the TUC they were struggling with juggling work, childcare and home schooling, adding they were worried how they would be treated by their employers in the future.

Nine in 10 said their anxiety and stress levels had increased during the latest lockdown while nearly half (48%) were concerned they’d be treating negatively by their employers because of their childcare responsibilities.

In order to cope, 25% were using annual leave to manage childcare, while 18% had to cut down their working hours. For 7%, they said they were taking unpaid leave despite facing financial challenges.

Emergency right to furlough

The TUC said the UK’s “inadequate system of parental leave” and “woefully low level of sick pay” is leaving parents in impossible situations, where they risk losing their job or face a catastrophic loss of income.

As such, it is calling on ministers to introduce a temporary right to furlough for groups who can’t work because of coronavirus restrictions – both parents and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and required to shield.

The union body said employers should discuss with parents and those shielding whether other measures – such as offering additional paid leave, changes to working hours or other flexibilities like working from home, and offering alternative work  –  could help workers balance their responsibilities, but that as a last resort, workers should have the right to be furloughed.

Further, ministers should encourage employers to use the furlough scheme for parents and those shielding where other arrangements can’t be made.

It also wants to see:

  • Ten days’ paid carers leave, from day one in a job, for all parents. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children.
  • A right to flexible work for all parents. Flexible working can include predictable or set hours, working from home, job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time working.
  • An increase in sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage, for everyone in work, to ensure workers can afford to self-isolate if they need to.
  • Newly self-employed parents to have access to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

‘Mums are despairing’

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The safety of school staff and children must always come first. But the government’s lack of support for working parents is causing huge financial hardship and stress – and hitting low-paid mums and single parents hardest.

“Just like in the first lockdown, mums are shouldering the majority of childcare. Tens of thousands of mums have told us they are despairing. It’s neither possible nor sustainable for them to work as normal, while looking after their children and supervising schoolwork.

“Making staff take weeks of unpaid leave isn’t the answer. Bosses must do the right thing and offer maximum flexibility to mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare. And as a last resort, parents must have a temporary right to be furloughed where their boss will not agree.

“The UK’s parental leave system is one of the worst in Europe. It’s time for the government to give all parents the right to work flexibly, plus at least ten days’ paid carers leave each year.”