A summary of the TUC report, published January 2021
We went into the pandemic unequal and are likely to emerge even more unequal. The TUC report Working Mums, Paying the Price, has said that working class women will be hit hardest. Women have lost jobs, income and employment opportunities and it’s all taken its toll on our mental health
Although furlough has been available to working parents since April 2020, employers are not generally approving requests. 7 in 10 requests for furlough have been turned down by employers and employers have not been informing people of the scheme. 78 percent of mums affected by school closures have not been offered furlough by their employer. The TUC is calling for furlough to be a temporary legal right, although it would be better to have proper parental leave entitlement in the UK. A private sector, part-time worker, with two children under five, said:
"I requested furlough and it was refused. [My manager] feared opening the floodgates, feared the wider business will think our team can manage without [me] and be subject to headcount reduction. Told to take unpaid leave which I can't afford. I work for a global multi-billion pound business. It's insane. Many others are in a similar situation."
Nine out of ten mums say their mental health has been negatively impacted experiencing levels of stress and anxiety. A TUC survey of mums during the first lockdown found that 30 percent regularly worked early in the morning (pre-8am) or late at night (post-8pm). As this mum told the TUC:
"I’ve a three, six & seven year old and work 9-5 at home. My husband usually works a 60-70 hour week. It means he cannot help with the children. They need constant encouragement and support [with homeschooling]…then there’s a three year old wanting everyone to play too. At 5pm when I technically finish work, it’s then starting dinner, bath & bedtime. Then cleaning up. By 8pm I was exhausted but had to start working again. I finished at 1am and was up at 5.30am (as usual) with my three year old. I’m facing weeks, maybe longer of this. I cannot sustain this. I just can’t.”
One-quarter of mums are worried they will lose their job, either through being singled out for redundancy, sacked or denied hours. Nearly half of mums (48 percent) fear they will be treated negatively by their employer as a result of difficulties with childcare. One mum -a private sector worker, working full time, with two children under ten, one over ten - said,
"I have three children studying across three key stages and trying to work full time [because I’m] in fear of losing my job. I am exhausted, I am stressed, I am anxious and I am only just about keeping myself and my children on track. I feel like I can’t afford to ask to be furloughed, so literally have no choice but to carry on”.
A quarter of mums who replied to the survey were using annual leave to manage their childcare – but nearly one in five (18 per cent) had been forced to reduce their working hours and around one in 14 (seven per cent) are taking unpaid leave from work and receiving no income.
Very traditional gender roles persist. Only 42% of mums surveyed were being supported by a partner in their efforts at homeschooling.
What the TUC is demanding
“Other countries have taken emergency steps to support parents. For example, in Germany, parents have been given an additional ten days leave to support children, and single parents an additional 20 days 5. In March, Italy approved 15 days paid parental leave for both parents, while schools are closed 6. The UK government must do the same.
"The government must help working families balance paid work and childcare, by reforming the system of parental leave and sick pay; including bringing in:
"Ten days’ paid carers leave, from day one in a job, for all parents. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children.
"A right to flexible work for all parents. 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.
"An increase in sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage, for everyone in work, to ensure workers can afford to self-isolate if they need to.
"All newly self-employed parents to have access the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS).”