One in four parents could not do their jobs without wraparound care, study finds

As the government outlines plans to reopen the economy, experts urge employers to be accommodating of changing childcare needs

A quarter of parents fear they could not do their jobs if ‘wraparound’ care provisions such as breakfast and after-school clubs remain shut.

A YouGov poll of 500 working parents, commissioned by Junior Adventures Group, found 24 per cent believed they would not be able to do their jobs without wraparound childcare that bridges the gap between school and normal working hours, increasing to 31 per cent when looking at only women.

A third (33 per cent) said they would need to cut their hours without wraparound care, increasing to 40 per cent among women. Similarly, a quarter (25 per cent) of those polled said they believed their careers would suffer without this form of care, increasing to 30 per cent among women.

The findings come as the government yesterday (22 February) outlined plans to start reopening schools in England from 8 March. The Scottish government is also expected to outline its own plans to reopen schools later today.

The plan to reopen schools has been welcomed by many employers and working parents. Laura Jackson, associate at LexLeyton, said: “It [will be] a huge bonus for employers, reducing the impact of childcare on their employees’ working patterns.

“While employers have generally been extremely accommodating with employees in terms of supporting childcare needs, we are likely to see a shift in how working parents manage their time, replacing homeschooling with school runs.” 

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She added that businesses should start proactively reaching out to staff to discuss how they can best accommodate these changes, particularly for parents who were furloughed for childcare reasons. 

“It is crucial that employers carefully consider how best to integrate these returning employees into teams to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any resentment from employees who have not been furloughed,” Jackson said.

However, while some after-school provisions will reopen alongside schools, Renee Bowman, CEO of Junior Adventures Group, warned that, without additional government support for the sector, many wraparound care providers would stay closed. “Demand has dropped dramatically as a result of many parents still working from home or being furloughed or unemployed,” she said.

“This, coupled with strict and costly operating guidelines, has made the majority of childcare services unviable. Without urgent financial support, the wraparound and holiday care sector will collapse and more than three million working parents will be without childcare.”

In yesterday’s announcement, prime minister Boris Johnson also outlined plans for a wider relaxation of lockdown rules following a recent slowdown in infection rates.

As well as schools reopening, from 8 March two people will be allowed to sit together outdoors and care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor.

From 29 March outdoor sports facilities can reopen, and organised sports will be allowed again. The rules for meeting people will also be relaxed: either six people or two households will be allowed to meet outside and travelling outside your area will be permitted.

Johnson added that non-essential and personal care businesses – including barbers and hairdressers – could open as early as 12 April, alongside outdoor hospitality (including pub gardens), indoor gyms, swimming pools and self-contained holiday accommodation. However, this will be subject to a review closer to the time.

Indoor hospitality, including pubs and bars, could open from 17 May, although this too will be dependent on the infection rate. This is the earliest that six or more people from two households would be allowed to meet indoors.

The aim is to be able to reopen all sectors of the economy and remove all restrictions on social contact from 21 June.