The TUC has called on the government to expand the furlough scheme beyond October for parents without the childcare they need, as well as asking for companies to provide more flexibility for working parents.
The lack of access to childcare during the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a crisis that “risks turning the clock back on decades of labour market progress”, warns Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress.
Her caution comes as the TUC released the results of a survey which reveals that two in five working mothers with children under 10 in Britain are struggling to find the childcare they need, as breakfast and after-school clubs remain shut and care from friends and family remains limited.
“Women workers have borne the brunt of this crisis – both on the frontline and at home,” she said. “But this can’t go on. If we don’t take this childcare crisis seriously, women will be pushed out of the workforce.”
The ICM survey found that 41% of working mothers with children under 10 cannot get, or are unsure whether they will get, enough childcare to cover the hours they need from this month: 45% said they do not have their usual help from friends and family, while 35% said they cannot get places at after-school clubs and 28% have lost childcare provided by school breakfast clubs. The same proportion (28%) do not have their usual nursery or childminder available.
While previous surveys suggest all parents have taken on more childcare during the pandemic, the survey found that while 43% of women said they have had to combine working at home and childcare, the same was true for only 29% of their male partners.
Experts have warned that the pandemic could set women back decades and increase the gender pay gap. The survey found that one in six women said that they were worried that balancing work and childcare had affected how they would be assessed by their manager, while one in six said they were worried that it had affected their chances of a promotion in the future.
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA said: “Nurseries and childcare providers have worked hard throughout the pandemic, offering emergency childcare where possible and then implementing wide-ranging safety measures to be able to take more children back when lockdown ended.
“This survey of working parents shows how vital the sector is, not just for children’s early education and development, but as a core part of our national economic infrastructure. Our call for urgent funding to the sector now has the support of trade unions, local authorities and parents who recognise the urgency of the situation.
“Nurseries have rightly invested time, effort and resources into measures to make sure children and staff are safe in settings. Governments across Europe are recognising the importance of the childcare sector to any economic recovery and providing financial support, it’s time Ministers did the same here.”
The full story, as reported by the Guardian can be found here.