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Furlough denied to 71% of working mothers while schools shut, new survey reveals

Harriet Brewis
·3 min read
<p>A quarter of mums have been using annual leave to deal with childcare issues</p> (Standsome Worklifestyle/Unsplash)

A quarter of mums have been using annual leave to deal with childcare issues

(Standsome Worklifestyle/Unsplash)

More than 70 per cent of working mothers who have asked to be furloughed during school closures have seen their requests rejected, a new survey has revealed.

The poll of 50,000 women across the UK highlights the “huge” financial problems and stress faced by working parents, according to the TUC trade union umbrella body which conducted the study.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, who described the poll as a “cry for help” said low-paid mums and single parents were facing the greatest hardships as a result of the “lack of support.”

“Just like in the first lockdown, mums are shouldering the majority of childcare,” Ms O’Grady said. “Tens of thousands of mums have told us they are despairing. It’s neither possible nor sustainable for them to work as normal, while looking after their children and supervising schoolwork.”

The job retention scheme has allowed bosses to furlough parents who are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities since April 2020.

However, the survey found that 71 per cent of working mothers had seen their requests for furlough denied after schools were shut under the latest national lockdown rules.

It also found that 78 per cent had not been offered furlough by their employers at any point during the pandemic.

A quarter of mothers (25 per cent) said they had been using annual leave to deal with childcare issues, while seven per cent were taking unpaid leave from work to look after their children.

Responding to the findings Ms O’Grady said: “The safety of school staff and children must always come first.

“But the Government’s lack of support for working parents is causing huge financial hardship and stress – and hitting low-paid mums and single parents hardest.”

She continued: “Making staff take weeks of unpaid leave isn't the answer. Bosses must do the right thing and offer maximum flexibility to mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare. And as a last resort, parents must have a temporary right to be furloughed where their boss will not agree.”

‘Bosses must do the right thing and offer maximum flexibility to mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare’ Charles Deluvio/Unsplash
‘Bosses must do the right thing and offer maximum flexibility to mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare’ Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

The TUC said that while it had marketed the survey to all parents, just seven per cent of respondents (2,660) were men, The Guardian reported.

Of the 167 fathers (compared to 3,100 mothers) who had requested furlough, 75 per cent had been refused, a similar percentage to the 71 per cent reported among mothers.

Founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed Joeli Brearley said: “The parents of young children are currently being asked to either sacrifice their income or their child’s education and care; placing them in an impossible situation.

“We know that this burden is predominantly falling to mothers, and the consequences for maternal employment will be disastrous.

“What we are seeing here is a cry for help on a massive scale. Our advice lines are awash with mothers who have no idea how to care for their children and maintain their paid employment when their employer is refusing to furlough them.

“This is an emergency and if the government doesn’t step in soon there will be a generational roll back in maternal employment that will take us decades to repair.”

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