The TUC has called for urgent action on childcare to help working parents, particularly mums, from being forced out of work or onto unpaid leave.
Policy is failing to recognise or meet the needs of working mums during the COVID-19 pandemic and without immediate strategic action by government, many women could lose their jobs or pay as they struggle to balance work and care, according to a new TUC report.
It says the government cannot stand by while mums – who, research shows, are most affected by the lack of childcare as a result of the pandemic – are forced out of work and that without urgent action to support women to stay in work we risk losing decades of progress on women’s labour market participation.
The report presents a number of emergency measures which it says are needed to prevent widespread and unnecessary job loss among working parents.
It says a more limited form of the job retention scheme should remain in place beyond October to support parents who are unable to return to work because of childcare responsibilities and enable them to remain on it until schools and childcare settings are fully reopened.
It also calls for a day one right to flexible working, an urgent cash injection to the childcare sector to ensure it remains sustainable as well as additional funding targeted at provision supporting children from low income households and a day one right to 10 days paid parental leave. The report says the latter could be used to cover parents who are unable to work during a 14-day self-isolation mandated by NHS Track and Trace.
And it says employers must be given clear messages from government that they will be breaking the law if they unfairly select women for redundancy because of caring responsibilities.
It states: “The lack of consideration of childcare in the government’s exit strategy has left working parents, particularly mums, in a terrible bind. Many working parents will be asked to return to work before there is the childcare to enable them to do so and without the necessary rights to protect their jobs and income.”