Just over 70% of working mums who have applied for furlough following the latest school closures have had their requests turned down, according to a new survey.
Last week, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and campaigner Mother Pukka launched a call for evidence for working mums to share their experiences of how they are balancing work and childcare during the current lockdown.
More than 50,000 mums got in touch, with 71% who asked to be furloughed having their requests denied. Over three-quarters (78%) had never been offered furlough, while 40% were unaware that the furlough scheme was available to parents affected by school or nursery closures.
You can be furloughed if caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus mean you are unable to work (including from home) or are working reduced hours.
The job retention scheme, which currently runs to 30 April 2021, allows bosses to furlough parents who cannot work due to a lack of childcare. But the TUC reports that many mums are missing out as the job retention scheme is not promoted to parents.
Most (90%) of those polled said that their anxiety and stress levels had increased during this latest lockdown, with 48% concerned that the would be treated negatively by their employer because of their childcare responsibilities.
A quarter (25%) of mums were taking annual leave to manage their childcare – but 18% had to reduce their working hours and 7% were taking unpaid leave from work.
Around half (44%) were worried of the impact of taking time off work will have on their finances.
The TUC is calling on ministers to introduce a temporary right to furlough for groups who cannot work because of coronavirus restrictions – both parents and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and required to shield.
The union body says employers should first explore with parents and those shielding whether other measures – such as offering additional paid leave, changes to working hours or other flexibilities like working from home and offering alternative work – and that workers should have the right to be furloughed as a last resort.
The TUC is calling on the government to introduce the following rights:
- Ten days’ paid carers’ leave for parents;
- A right to flexible work for parents;
- An increase in sick pay to at least the level of the l Living Wage, for all workers, so they can afford to self-isolate if they need to; and
- Newly self-employed parents to have access the self-employment income support scheme.
What to do if you are a working parent
Check the government website to find out your rights under the job retention scheme.
Employers are being urged to do the right thing, with a Treasury spokesperson claiming “It’s been clear since the first lockdown that employers can furlough eligible employees who are required to shield, or those with childcare responsibilities, including because of school closures.’’
You can also talk to your employer about having additional paid leave, additional flexibility with no loss of pay or alternative forms of work during lockdown – for example, working from home, undertaking alternative work or changing work hours.
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