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Parents struggle for summer childcare

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Written by: Emma Lunn
16/07/2021
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of working mums with primary school age children don’t have sufficient childcare for the six-week school summer holidays, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Mother Pukka.

The situation is even worse for single mums, with more than three in four (76%) saying they don’t have adequate childcare for the upcoming holidays.

More than 36,000 mums responded to a survey run by the union and campaign group about the challenges of managing work and childcare in the school holidays.

At the end of June, the TUC and Mother Pukka launched a call for evidence for working mums to share their experiences of how they will manage their work and childcare commitments this school summer holiday.

Working mums across the public and private sector reported huge challenges in balancing their work and childcare, with three in five (60%) saying they would find managing childcare in the holidays more difficult this year than previously.

Nearly one in five (18%) said they had used all their annual leave allowance already to accommodate home schooling during lockdowns. A similar proportion (20%) don’t have their usual network of friends or family that they can rely on to help with their childcare this year. About one in eight (13%) told the TUC they don’t have access to their usual school holiday summer clubs.

Previous TUC research has shown that working mums have picked up the lion’s share of the increase in caring responsibilities during the Covid-19 lockdowns and school closures. And this survey reveals that these school holidays will be yet another struggle for working mums.

Mums told the TUC they are juggling a variety of means to try and manage their childcare during the school holiday – and many are relying on being able to work more flexibly than before to help them cope.

About two in five (39%) will have to combine working from home with childcare, while more than one in four (27%) will work more flexibly than normal. One in eight (13%) will have to reduce their hours at work, with the same proportion saying they will have to take unpaid leave.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General secretary, said: “Women have borne the brunt of the pandemic, on the front line in key worker roles and at home. Working mums picked up the lion’s share of caring responsibilities while schools were closed, with many sacrificing hours and pay to do so.

“But while restrictions may be lifting and ministers talk about us getting back to normal, working mums are still feeling the impact of the pandemic. Most mums told us they don’t have enough childcare for the upcoming school holidays and are now facing a huge challenge managing their work and caring responsibilities this summer.

“It shouldn’t be this difficult. If ministers don’t act, we risk turning the clock back on generations of progress women have made at work. It’s clear parents are relying on flexibility more than ever to cope with the extra demands posed by the crisis. Let’s make sure everyone has stronger legal rights to flexible working arrangements.”

Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, said: “There are approximately 62 days of holiday a year, and the average employee holiday allowance is 25 days. The maths simply doesn’t add up.

“If we are going to recover from this pandemic and ensure the playing field is level for men and women at some point in the future, we need childcare to be part of our infrastructure – as important as roads, railways and signposts. If it’s tough for a two-parent family, have a moment to consider a single parent family. The current system has parents at breaking point.

The TUC is calling on the government to introduce 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. It points out that 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.

The union also wants 10 days’ carer’s leave paid on full pay to be introduced, from day one in a job, for all parents. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children.

It has also called for more investment in childcare so that good quality affordable childcare is available throughout the year to support parents and help the sector recover from the pandemic.

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