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New report: Working parents are losing out due to COVID-19
Published: 3 Apr 2020
A report from charity Working Families calls for the government and employers to go further in supporting working parents during the pandemic.
A new report from work-life balance charity Working Families demonstrates the pressing need for increased support for working parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report is informed by queries to the charity’s free legal advice helpline, which have quadrupled since the start of the pandemic. Since mid-March, over 36,000 people have accessed the charity’s coronavirus-focused legal advice web pages.
The report highlights the ongoing challenges working parents are facing as a result of COVID-19, which greatly increased when schools and childcare settings were closed on 20 March 2020. Many parents are being forced to take unpaid leave or are losing their jobs, bringing economic uncertainty and hardship at the worst possible time.
Below is a summary of the ongoing issues and the charity’s recommendations to the government for going further in supporting working parents during this pandemic:
- Furlough: Currently, the Job Retention Scheme is for is for employers whose operations have been affected by COVID-19. The government needs to provide clear guidance that employers can ‘furlough’ (i.e. seek reimbursement of 80% of wages, up to £2,500 a month) parents whose childcare commitments make working from home impossible. Otherwise, parents will have to rely on unpaid leave and benefits.
- Reduced-hours Working: Currently, employers do not have an option to ‘top up’ the income of parents who may have reduced their hours because they are caring for their children, too. We’re urging the government to explore options enabling employers that need to, to claim for the hours parents can’t work, so they aren’t disadvantaged compared to furloughed employees who aren’t working at all.
- Social Security: Clearly, not all employers will be able to support parents to work at home or make use of ‘furloughing’. So, we’re calling for a significant uplift in Child Benefit payments for the duration of the pandemic—for existing and new claimants – to capture parents who have taken unpaid leave or been dismissed as a result of COVID-19.
- Pregnancy and Maternity: Pregnant women have been told by the government that they may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The charity has received a raft of enquiries about this, particularly from pregnant women unable to work from home. The government must make it clear that, where this isn’t possible, employers should be suspending pregnant women on full pay until their maternity leave starts.
Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said:
“Because of COVID-19, parents across the UK have been thrust into a ‘new normal’ of holding down a job whilst looking after children. These parents need employers that support homeworking and are willing to have pragmatic discussions about output and deadlines. We’re deeply concerned about the unwillingness of some employers to be flexible.
“It’s important the government explores supporting employers to continue to pay parents at or near their usual salary if their hours have been reduced because of childcare. Where it’s impossible for parents to work because of childcare, being ‘furloughed’ must be an option. We need to keep parents in work to ensure that the UK economy is in the strongest possible position after the pandemic.
“We have seen clear evidence that fathers are not being asked about how they will manage work and care at this time. The expectation is very much that women will take over childcare full-time, affecting their ability to work. Whilst reducing their hours or being ‘furloughed’ is preferable to losing their job, the government and employers must be mindful not to turn back the gender equality clock.
The coronavirus pandemic has brutally exposed that insecure, low-paid jobs—that only pay when you can pick up shifts, leave you with no options if you get sick or if your childcare breaks down, and leave you vulnerable to being let go at will—simply don’t work for families. It’s time to end the inequality in access to employment rights based on employment status.”
Working Families has set up five pages to answer FAQs about the COVID-19 pandemic:
COVID-19: What are my rights?
COVID-19: Furlough and Redundancy
COVID-19: Financial support
COVID-19: Issues for new and expectant parents
COVID19: Rights for carers