Two-fifths of working parents balancing homeschooling with a full-time job, survey finds

Poll shows workers spend an average of 15 hours a week educating their children, with experts calling for more flexibility from employers

Two-fifths of working parents are homeschooling their children during the coronavirus outbreak while holding down a full-time job, a survey has found.

The poll of 2,000 working adults with school-aged children, conducted by Canada Life, found 39 per cent were balancing full-time jobs while also homeschooling.

On average these parents spend three hours a day – 15 hours a week – homeschooling, with many making up the lost work hours in the evenings after their children have gone to sleep.

And while more than a third (35 per cent) of respondents said they wanted their working patterns to stay the same when lockdown came to an end, 41 per cent admitted the stress of balancing work and schooling was becoming difficult.

The results come as the government and teaching unions continue to negotiate a return to school for some pupils. As part of the government’s plans to ease lockdown restrictions, schools in England were due to open for some students on 1 June – on the condition that the outbreak remained under control.

However, one of the main teaching unions, the NASUWT, has argued that the necessary measures are not yet in place to keep teaching staff safe, and some local authorities have taken it upon themselves to push back the opening of schools in their areas to later in the month.

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Schools in Wales are not set to open next month, and schools in Scotland could be shut until the start of the new academic year in August.

Claire McCartney, resource and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said it was unsurprising that parents were finding it stressful to both educate their children while carrying out their work responsibilities, and called on employers to be flexible in their response: “It’s really important that line managers discuss with employees what they both believe can be done to carry on meeting the needs of their job role, while taking care of their child or children.”

McCartney added that when planning how to help parents manage over the long term, employers should consider including flexible working hours and start/finish times, allowing part-time workers to split their hours over more days, reducing working hours – with associated adjustment to salary – or altering an employee’s responsibilities.

The survey also found some businesses had been quick to react. The majority of respondents (87 per cent) said their employers had introduced flexible measures during lockdown, including flexible hours (24 per cent), reducing parents’ workplace responsibilities (19 per cent), cutting back the number of meetings (17 per cent) and introducing role sharing (10 per cent).

Only a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents wanted to return to the physical workplace when lockdown came to an end, compared to 32 per cent who wanted to work more from home.

McCartney said it was “not surprising that, coming out of this pandemic, more employees will want to continue to work flexibly”.

“We believe that flexible working should be available to all employees, at all levels, and our recent cross-sector research shows that, regardless of sector or role, most organisations should be able to accommodate some kind of flexibility,” she said.

However, earlier this month charity Working Families released a report calling for more support to be given to working parents during the coronavirus outbreak. The charity said many parents were being forced to take unpaid leave or losing their jobs, and that changes to the job retention scheme to allow workers to be furloughed because of care responsibilities did not help those who were instead reducing their hours.

Jane van Zyl, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It’s important the government explores supporting employers to continue to pay parents at or near their usual salary if their hours have been reduced because of childcare.”

She added that women in particular were being disadvantaged by childcare responsibilities. “We have seen clear evidence that fathers are not being asked about how they will manage work and care at this time. The expectation is very much that women will take over childcare full time, affecting their ability to work,” van Zyl said. “The government and employers must be mindful not to turn back the gender equality clock.”