Working Families calls on employers to be reasonable about what parents who have to work and teach their children can achieve over the next weeks now schools and nurseries are closed.
Working families campaigners are calling on employers to have sensible conversations with working parents about what level of work is possible given the closure of schools and nurseries due to COVID-19.
The Government announced this evening that schools and nurseries across the UK will close from Friday.
Charities for parents, including Working Families and the Coram Family and Childcare, called for employers to be understanding of parents having to both work and support their children’s learning in the next week.
Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “Employers should continue to pay parents and carers as usual while they are working from home. Now’s the time for line managers to have sensible and understanding conversations with parents and carers of young children – particularly those working full-time – about what is needed, and what is and isn’t possible, over the coming weeks.”
She also called on the Government to support employers who can’t afford to continue to pay staff who are unable to work from home and to support parents and carers in insecure work, including the self-employed.
She added that self employed parents who can’t work due to their kids being at home or who aren’t being paid by their employer need changes to be made to the social security system so they continue to receive pay for their hours worked at national minimum wage replacement levels. For the self-employed and those working irregular hours she said this should be based on how much they work on average. And she said the Government should remind employers of parents’ and carers’ to emergency time off for dependants while schools are closed, which means they cannot be dismissed or treated unfavourably as a result.
Van Zyl said: “Since the virus emerged, we’ve seen an increasing number of employers adopt flexible working to mitigate the risks of spreading the illness. We hope that this will help employers recognise the far-reaching benefits of flexible working – including increased productivity and engagement from staff – and that they will continue to embed flexible working into their business long after the coronavirus has run its course.”
According to a recent survey of 282 working parents by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development and YouGov, less than half (45 per cent) said they would be able to work from home if schools were closed. A fifth (21 per cent) said they would have to take paid annual leave in order to cope, and 15 per cent said they would need to take emergency unpaid leave.
Coram Family and Childcare also raised concerns about childcare providers’ finances. In the last week the Chancellor has outlined a number of measures aimed at supporting the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. The childcare sector has been calling for a dedicated support package for the early years sector too to ensure that they are able to survive long term, given many have been struggling due to underfunding of ‘free’ childcare.
Claire Harding, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Most childcare providers are small businesses, and they operate on very tight margins. If they don’t have any income, they will go out of business. We welcome Government’s commitment to continue free early education funding but this isn’t enough, as most settings also rely on parent fees. Government must protect them – so they’re able to start providing childcare again as soon as the closure period ends.”