After a series of chaotic announcements on school closures, the TUC is calling on the government to offer furlough to all working parents, many of whom have been left in real difficulties by this last-minute approach. 

It points out that the Job Retention Scheme allows bosses to furlough parents who cannot work due to a lack of childcare. Furlough is available from a minimum of seven days – which would allow parents to share childcare over the coming weeks – and can also be given on a part-time basis.

But the TUC is concerned that not all bosses are aware that caring responsibilities are an acceptable reason to furlough, so many parents will have no choice but to take unpaid time off work to care for their children – or even be forced to leave their jobs altogether. 

The TUC is also calling for help for self-employed working parents. It wants the government to provide automatic access to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme alongside broader improvements to the scheme. Otherwise – already struggling after months of disruption to childcare – they could find themselves falling into serious financial difficulty and debt. 

The union body is particularly concerned about the impact of the closures on mothers. When schools closed in March, it noted that working mums took on the bulk of caring responsibilities. Indeed, TUC polling published in September found that one in six working mothers - mostly in low-paid jobs – had been given no choice but to reduce their working hours due to school and nursery closures. 

The TUC is therefore concerned that mothers will be disproportionately affected by school closures once again. And single parents (most of whom are women) will also be affected as they are less likely to have someone with whom to share the burden of care. 

On a more general note, the TUC is calling on the government to do more to fix the flaws in the parental leave system by introducing: 

  • A day one right to 10 days' paid parental leave. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children. 
  • A day one right to flexible work. 


You can read the TUC polling data on working mothers in more detail here.