The last 18 months have been difficult for everyone, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned our lives and our communities upside down, with devastating consequences. Women have been on the frontline of this crisis, as workers, as carers and as parents. Previous research from the TUC has shown the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on the lives on women, and particularly mums, as they juggled work and care, shouldering much of the responsibility for home schooling, and domestic chores on top of their jobs. 
But as restrictions are lifted, a crisis in childcare continues, with mums facing a summer of trying to manage their jobs and a patchwork of childcare to get through the holidays.
Between the 23 June and the 4 July, the TUC put out a survey to find out how working parents were going to manage childcare over the summer holidays. Over 36,000 mums responded.
Our research found that working mums are facing a tough summer with no respite from the impact of the pandemic on their load as they try to balance childcare and work:
 TUC, (2021) Working mums and Covid-19: paying the price, available at https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2021-04/WorkingMums.pdf
The crisis has shone a light on the patchwork of care that enable mums to maintain their employment.
The summer holidays this year will be tougher than previous years for many, but for many mums they are constantly trying to manage schooling, wraparound care, informal childcare support, annual leave, formal childcare and holiday provision and a careful arrangement of hours between adults in the household. Pandemic or no pandemic. As one respondent to our survey put it, it is ‘like a complex military operation’.
Employers need to be supportive of their employees and recognise the challenges working parents and particularly mums face. Losing the skills and talents of so many women by forcing them out of the workforce will not benefit anybody.
In the first instance, with restrictions lifting, it is essential that employers ensure that those with caring responsibilities who have been able to work from home during the pandemic can continue to do so to support them with managing childcare. But working from home should not mean working all hours of the day to try and juggle work and care. Workloads need to be manageable, and workers should have a right to disconnect.
For those who cannot work from home, employers need to assess what other flexibility can be made available with no loss of pay. With the summer holidays just around the corner, employers need to review their current flexible working policies immediately, consulting with employees and trade unions to balance the needs of staff and the organisation and ensuring that working parents who need flexibility now are supported.
But this should not just be a short-term response to the pandemic. Employers should adopt flexibility by default. Employers should consider what flexibility is available in different roles and ensure this is included in all job adverts going forward. The advert should set out the types of flexibility available rather than include a generalised statement. Current employees should have the opportunity to access the same flexibility as well. Flexibility could also include predictable hours and greater notice of hours. Advertising jobs as flexible benefits workers and employers. The Government Equalities Officer found that jobs advertised flexibly attracted 30 per cent more applicants than those that did not.1
The government must help working families balance paid work and childcare, by reforming the system of parental leave and flexible working rights:
The government must focus on policies that drive progress in equalising care between mums and dads so that women are not disproportionately affected by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. This must include:
The government Equalities Office should review and where necessary redraft the gender equality roadmap to reflect the current context and challenges working mums face, including a clear timetable for taking action on the findings.
The government should also carry out and publish equality impact assessments on all its policies, as it is required to do – but seems rarely to do in practice. The pandemic does not affect men and women equally. As the Women and Equalities Select Committee has highlighted, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a disproportionate impact on women, the same committee also argued that many of the government’s actions during the pandemic have worsened the situation for women. The government must assess the possible impacts of its policies and decision-making prior to implementation and monitor the impacts thereafter.
Working mums face a difficult summer trying to piece together a patchwork of solutions to manage work and childcare. 60 per cent of respondents to our survey said they would find managing childcare more difficult this summer in comparison to previous years. This rose to 70 per cent for mums in single parent households.
Of those who said they would find managing childcare more difficult this year, nearly a fifth (18 per cent) said they had already used up all their annual leave to accommodate school closures during lockdowns. The same number (18 per cent) said they could not afford to take any unpaid leave; this rose to nearly a quarter (23 per cent) for mums in single parent households.
Around six per cent said they did not have access to any flexible working options to help them manage childcare over the summer holidays.
A fifth of respondents said that they do not have their usual network of friends and family outside of their household for support. And 1 in 8 do not have access to the holiday clubs and school playschemes they would usually rely on because they have not restarted as restrictions have lifted.
Respondents told us about the challenges and worry they were facing in terms of cost, lack of flexibility, how they would be piecing together a patchwork of care to get through the holidays, and how the pandemic has left them without their usual support networks of grandparents, friends, and holiday clubs.
This is taking a huge toll on working parents and particularly mum’s mental health, which our previous research showed had already suffered during the pandemic due to juggling childcare, domestic chores, home schooling and work. 2
One respondent told us:
Others told us:
One key worker told us:
Our survey found that mums were having to piece together a patchwork of care to get through the holidays.
Many mums told us that they are relying on being able to work more flexibly to help them cope. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents told us they would be working more flexibly during the holidays so that they could manage childcare. Two in five (39 per cent) said they would be combining working from home and childcare, and over a quarter (27 per cent) said they would be working more flexibly. Almost half were having to rely on friends and family throughout the holidays. For one in eight they have little choice but to take unpaid leave or reduce their hours, taking a financial hit and causing further stress and anxiety.
Respondents were invited to tell us more about the challenges they were facing this summer, sharing with us the often costly and stressful juggling act they were having to manage to get through the holidays:
Our survey highlights the challenges working parents and particularly mums are facing this summer and that things are going to be harder this year than in previous years because of the pandemic. But mums also told us that juggling care and work, especially over the holidays is always a struggle.
Many told us how expensive childcare is and how a lack of flexible working and support from their employer and a lack of childcare provision was the norm.3 This reflects previous TUC research which showed one in three requests for flexible working were turned down by employers. Working mums also said they were concerned about how lack of support from employers for those with caring responsibilities impacts their earnings and careers, and how the burden always falls on them.
Dropping hours, taking unpaid leave, not having supportive and flexible workplace and parental leave policies all further compounds pay inequality as highlighted through gender pay gap reporting.
It also leaves women worried about their jobs particularly during the pandemic. Previous TUC research at the start of 2021 found that a quarter (25 per cent) of working mums were worried about losing their jobs either through being singled out for redundancy, sacked or denied hours.4 TUC analysis of Office for National Statistics data showed that the number of women being made redundant at the peak of this crisis so far was 76 per cent higher than the peak of redundancies in the global financial crisis in 2009.5
We also know women are more likely to have been on furlough working in sectors that have been most impacted by lockdowns. Latest figures show over 2.4 million employees were still on furlough at the end of May 2021 and 48 per cent were women.6
And the childcare sector itself is in crisis. Women’s Budget Group analysis of Ofsted data shows that were 3,292 fewer childcare providers and 14,385 fewer childcare places in March 2021 in comparison to August 2020. This translates into the closure of over 7,500 providers over this period and the loss of 64,000 childcare places.7 As well as the impact this has on working parents, we know most childcare workers are women.
All of this points to women being forced out of the labour market and pushing back women’s progression and conditions in the workplace.
Women, and especially mums have already borne the brunt of the pandemic in so many ways, they cannot be side lined in the recovery. That means government and employers need to act now to give immediate support to working parents, and make sure that the longstanding inequalities women face are tackled and not further entrenched by the fall-out of the pandemic.
The TUC ran a self-report internet survey in partnership with Mother Pukka between the 23 June and 4 July. There were 38,959 respondents. Participants were self-selecting, 36,108 saying they were female, equivalent to 92 per cent of respondents (over 2000 respondents did not participate in any demographic based questions).
96 per cent of respondents have children of primary school age living with them. Nearly 8 per cent (3027) are single parents.
Half worked full-time, 31 per cent part-time, nearly 8 per cent are self-employed, over 6 per cent are temporarily away from work. Nearly 59 per cent were working in the private sector and 30 per cent were working in public sector. 34 per cent are key workers (65 per cent in the public sector and 30 per cent in the private sector).
Just over 40 per cent of respondents are from either London or Southeast, but all regions or nations (apart from Northern Ireland) had at least 1000 responses.
Findings for this report are taken from the women who responded who had children of primary school age. We had 652 dads respond to our survey, while this is not a large enough sample to for us to feel confident in our findings, we want to acknowledge and share their responses. These are set out below:
· 96 per cent have children of primary school age.
· 87 per cent are working full time.
· 31 per cent are key workers.
· 95 per cent live with a partner.
· 57 per cent said they did not have sufficient childcare for the summer holidays.
· 32 per cent said they would be working more flexibly than usual to manage care.
· 44 said they would be combining working from home and childcare.
· 65 per cent will find managing the summer holiday more difficult this year than in previous years.
· Nearly a fifth have used all annual leave to manage previous lockdowns.
· Nealy a fifth cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
· 5 per cent do not have access to any flexible working options.
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