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TUC calls on ministers to lift the burdens on working mums

By Rachel Lawlermother and baby mothers day TUC

The TUC has called on government minister to do more to ease the burdens on working mums as the UK celebrates Mothers’ Day.

The union says that women have “borne the brunt” of the coronavirus pandemic, after previous polling found that most mothers (90%) have taken on more childcare responsibilities since the start of the pandemic.

Approximately one in every six mothers (16%) have had no choice but to reduce their working hours in order to fulfil these extra childcare duties.

While years settings and schools have reopened, wraparound care, such as breakfast and afterschool clubs, are still limited if available, and many children may be sent home if a child tests positive for coronavirus. 

And another TUC survey found that nearly three-quarters of mums (71%) who had asked for furlough to help them balance work and care in the pandemic had seen their requests refused, even though they were eligible.

Nearly all mums (90%) said that their anxiety and stress levels had increased during this latest lockdown.

In response the TUC is calling for the government to make five key changes:

  1. Increase pay for all key workers as more than two in every five key workers are currently paid less than £10 an hour.
  2. Increase statutory sick pay from £95.85 a week to £320 a week to ensure that workers can afford to self-isolate if they need to.
  3. A right to 10 days parental leave per child each year, on full pay as parents currently have no legal right to paid leave to look after their children.
  4. Introduce a right to flexible working from the first day in a new job, including working from home, job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time only.
  5. Increase funding for childcare to ensure setting remain open and parents can get the childcare they need.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working mums have picked up the lion share of caring responsibilities while schools have been closed, with many giving up hours and pay to do so. We now risk turning the clock back on generations of progress women have made at work.

"This crisis has to be a turning point. Mums deserve so much more. We can’t allow these inequalities to take root as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Ministers need to introduce a range of measures to get women back into work, keep them in the workplace and help them cope with the extra demands posed by the crisis – or gender equality could be set back decades and women’s and children’s poverty could soar.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "It is troubling to see that access to childcare and early education is still significantly limiting the ability of parents, and especially mothers, to fully participate in the workforce.

“We already know that early years provision in disadvantaged areas has been hardest hit by the pandemic, with providers in these areas at greater risk of closure, so news that these challenges have so negatively impacted working mums on lower incomes suggests another setback for disadvantaged children during the crucial early years.

“It is clear from this evidence just how important a strong childcare and early education sector will be for the nation’s economic recovery. The government must therefore urgently review the totally inadequate early years entitlement funding, to ensure providers in all areas, including those offering wraparound care, can remain in business and able to support the families that need them."