There’s no denying the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on working parents, but two new statistics have revealed just how hard lockdown childcare issues have hit.
Research released by charity Pregnant Then Screwed shows that 46% of mothers who have been made redundant during the pandemic (or expect to be) say a lack of childcare has played a role.
The survey, of 19,950 mothers and pregnant women, also reveals that a whopping 72% of mums have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues, and 65% of mothers who have been furloughed say a lack of childcare was the reason.
Of the employed mothers surveyed, 81% said they need childcare to be able to work, but over half (51%) do not have the necessary childcare in place to enable them to do their job.
Self-employed mothers have also been impacted: 74% have had their earning potential reduced because of a lack of access to childcare.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed says the statistics have highlighted the difficulties working families and particularly mothers have been facing. “On 1 August we are expecting to hear from Boris that employers will be given ‘more discretion’ to consider how their staff can continue working safely.
“But this completely ignores the realities facing women, that 51% of mothers simply do not have the childcare in place to be able to return to work.
“This lack of childcare is destroying women’s careers, they are being made redundant, they are being forced to cut their hours, and they are being treated negatively all because they are picking up the unpaid labour.”
Brearley believes childcare issues during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in gender disparities within the workplace.
“That 15% of employed mothers have been made redundant or think they will be in the next six months, is huge and it’s terrifying,” she continues.
“To add insult to injury though almost half of these attribute a lack of childcare to the decision. This is discrimination in its most purest sense.
“To make someone redundant not because of their ability but because they are a mother is outrageous, and it needs to stop.
“While this data is shocking, it should also serve as a warning to employers. An organisation that lets caring responsibilities colour their judgment during redundancy consultations or selections could be leaving themselves open to claims of sex discrimination.”
The organisation is now calling on the government to step in to provide the support working mothers need.
“We need to see provisions in place to support mothers who are struggling with childcare through no fault of their own,” says Brearley.
“We need the government to open its eyes to the gender imbalance that COVID-19 is exacerbating and we need to help pregnant women and mums to be treated on merit, not on how many kids they have. The time to change this is now.”
A second set of statistics reveals the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on working families in general.
One in four parents have considered giving up work or reducing their hours due to childcare issues during lockdown, the poll reveals.
The survey carried out by market researcher Trinity McQueen and commissioned by law firm Simpson Millar, also revealed that more than two in three (69%) working parents, many of whom have had to juggle the demands of working from home with home schooling, admitted to not having any alternative childcare options available to them, even in June.
Of the 871 working parents who were surveyed, 25% said they had considered reducing their working hours or giving up work because of childcare issues.
Meanwhile more than a fifth (23%) claimed their employer could not accommodate flexible working.
Imogen Jolley, head of education law at Simpson Millar, is now warning that a second lockdown would have a “devastating impact” on families who have felt the strain of childcare and home-schooling on top of their work commitments.
Commenting on the findings, Jolley said: “Many families have struggled with the challenges presented by the pandemic and the reality of home-schooling while trying to work.
“A second wave and a further lockdown would clearly have a devastating impact on the mental wellbeing of these families, let alone the educational wellbeing of the children, with many reporting that they have not had enough support from the schools.”
Justine Roberts, founder and chief executive of Mumsnet, seconds Brearley’s view that it is working mothers who have been hit hardest by the lack of childcare.
“Lockdown was tricky for nearly everyone, but for parents of young children it was nerve-shreddingly difficult,” she tells PA.
“Mothers in particular took on a huge extra burden of home schooling and childcare, often alongside their regular jobs.”
She added: “Most parents have been pretty stoic because the circumstances in March and April were so extraordinary and fast-moving. If there is widespread disruption of education and childcare again, parents may not be so forgiving about their lives being thrown into chaos.”