Childcare crisis

Sacked mums say lack of childcare provision played role in redundancies

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Nearly half of working mothers recently made redundant say lack of childcare provision played a role in their sacking, a shocking new survey has revealed.

The massive economic toll the coronavirus crisis has taken on working mums was laid bare in the new poll, which also found that a huge majority – 72 per cent – were forced to reduce their hours because of childcare issues.

Self-employed mothers have also been hit hard, with 74 per cent reporting that access to childcare because of school and childcare facilities closing reduced their self-employed earning potential.

The survey of nearly 20,000 mums conducted by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed over a two-day period between July 16 and 18, found that an overwhelming number – 81 per cent – needed childcare in order to work. Just over half said they cannot work because they do not have the childcare they need to enable them to do so.

Pregnant mums have also been impacted by the coronavirus crisis – of the more than one in 10 who said they were recently made redundant or expect to be made redundant soon, 53 per cent believed their pregnancy was a factor in the decision, while an even higher percentage of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAEM) women – nearly 67 per cent – said they believed being pregnant played a role in their sacking.

Working mums on maternity leave also feel they have faced discrimination – of the 11 per cent of women who completed the survey who are on maternity leave and were recently made redundant, 60.7 per cent said they believed being on maternity leave played a role in the decision, rising to 66.7 percent of BAEM women on maternity leave who felt the same.

Mums have not only seen hits to their pay and working hours because of lack of childcare provision – it’s also taken a significant toll on their mental health as well.

Last week, a poll from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that one in three women who had school-aged children said their mental health had suffered because of home-schooling, compared to only in five fathers.

This may be because unsurprisingly, women have undertaken the lion’s share of childcare duties under lockdown, with mums spending over an hour and quarter more time each day looking after children than fathers.

 The latest surveys on working mums taking a hit to both their pay packets and their mental health comes as childcare providers face a mounting financial crisis.

Unite has for months called for a government bailout of the childcare sector and Labour reiterated that call earlier this month after chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to offer any support for childcare in his summer statement.

Government support is urgently needed – a survey by the Early Years’ Alliance found that one in four nurseries and other child care settings believe they will have to close permanently by the end of the year, with a separate survey from National Day Nurseries Association found that 71 per cent of nurseries are now operating at a financial loss.

Labour’s shadow children’s minister Tulip Saddiq explained why a bailout was so vital.

“Childcare is absolutely essential for working parents and to our economic recovery from coronavirus,” she said. “But it has been ignored by the Government in this crisis, with the early years sector consistently excluded from support packages.

“We were already losing hundreds of nurseries and childminders every month before this crisis hit due to years of underfunding,” she added. “We can’t afford for any more to close, but that is precisely what will happen unless the Government targets support properly on sectors like childcare.

“It’s time for ministers to get serious about supporting families in this pandemic and step in with a proper plan to save the childcare sector.”

Unite national officer for equalities Siobhan Endean agreed.

“Childcare provision will be a key component of any post-pandemic economic recovery,” she said. “But with so many nurseries and child care settings closing permanently and the vast majority operating at a loss, we run the very real risk of stopping a recovery dead in its tracks if the government doesn’t provide the vital support necessary for the sector to survive and for parents, particularly mums who often take on the majority of childcare duties, to get back to work.

“The government needs to act urgently and also provide job security and paid parental leave for parents,” Endean added. “We’re calling for the furlough scheme to be extended to protect mums who cannot return to work because of lack of childcare provision. Employers must also carry out equality impact assessments as they return to operations and provide a minimum of 10 days paid carers’ leave to ensure they are not unfairly discriminating against women.

“It is shocking that a majority of working mums recently made redundant believe lack of childcare or being pregnant fueled the decision. This is unlawful discrimination and we urge women to join a union to protect themselves. The Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to break the law.”

By Hajera Blagg

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