Two-thirds of working mums won’t have enough childcare during summer holidays, poll finds

Union calls for employers to be flexible as many parents exhausted their annual leave allowances earlier in the pandemic

Nearly two-thirds of working mums will not have enough childcare to see them through the six-week long summer holiday, a union has warned, with many already having used up their holiday allowance for childcare earlier in the pandemic.

A poll of 36,000 working mothers with primary school-aged children, conducted by the TUC and Mother Pukka, found 63 per cent said they did not have sufficient childcare, increasing to three-quarters (76 per cent) among single mums.

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) respondents said they had already used all their annual leave allowance in order to home school children during previous lockdowns, while a similar proportion (20 per cent) said they did not have their usual network of friends and family to support them with childcare.

The poll also found that more than one in 10 (13 per cent) said they would not have access to the usual holiday clubs this year.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said this comes after working mothers have already “borne the brunt” of childcare during the last year and a half.

“Working mums picked up the lion’s share of caring responsibilities while schools were closed, with many sacrificing hours and pay to do so,” she said. “But while restrictions may be lifting and ministers talk about us getting back to normal, working mums are still feeling the impact of the pandemic.”

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O’Grady added that working mothers were relying on flexible working arrangements “more than ever” to cope with the extra demands created by the pandemic, urging employers to be “as supportive as they can to their staff who have kids” and not force them back to the office if working remotely helps with childcare.

Previous research from the TUC found that nearly half (48 per cent) of working mothers said they were managing their caring responsibilities through some form of flexible working.

This most recent survey found that almost two in five (39 per cent) said they would have to  combine working from home with childcare to get through the summer, while a quarter (27 per cent) would have to work more flexibly than usual.

More than one in 10 (13 per cent) said they would have to reduce their hours at work this summer, while the same percentage said they would have to take unpaid leave.

Anna Whitehouse, founder of Mother Pukka, said: “There are approximately 62 days of holiday a year, and the average employee holiday allowance is 25 days. The maths simply doesn’t add up.

“If we are going to recover from this pandemic and ensure the playing field is level for men and women at some point in the future, we need childcare to be part of our infrastructure – as important as roads, railways and signposts."

Simon Kelleher, head of policy and influencing at Working Families, said the findings highlighted the need for a “national reset” in our approach to early years education and childcare.

“Establishing an affordable and accessible network of high-quality childcare provision would benefit communities across the country and offers policymakers some tangible actions to help realise their levelling-up ambitions”, he advised.

Kelleher said that Working Families regularly hears from parents who have had to either take unpaid leave, reduce their working hours, or quit their jobs altogether to look after their children due to the costs of accessing childcare. 

“This situation can negatively impact child development, reduce the financial resilience of families, lessens the pool of talent available to employers, and is a key driver of the gender pay gap”, he added.

The TUC is calling for the government to introduce a day-one right to flexible working, as well as 10 days of full paid leave for carers.

The CIPD’s #FlexFrom1st campaign is also calling for flexible working to be a day-one right.