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According to the latest TUC poll announced earlier this week, around 2 in 5 (41%) working mums with children under 10 can’t get – or are unsure whether they will get – enough childcare to cover the hours they need for work this September. This means it will push more women out of work due to the difficulty in juggling work and childcare.

The research revealed that mums are struggling to get enough childcare from September:

  • Nearly half (45%) said they don’t have their usual help from friends and family
  • More than a third (35%) told the TUC they can’t get places at afterschool clubs
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) have lost childcare provided by school breakfast clubs
  • The same proportion (28%) don’t have their usual nursery or childminder available

It also shined a light on the huge pressures of juggling work and childcare during the pandemic:

  • More than 2 in 5 (43%) said they have had to combine working at home and childcare – compared to less than 3 in 10 (29%) of their partners
  • 3 in 10 (30%) mums told the TUC they regularly worked early in the morning (pre-8am) or late at night (post-8pm) to balance work and childcare
  • 1 in 6 (16%) – mostly those in low-paid jobs – said that they have had no choice but to reduce their working hours.

What this research means, is that it is important for employers to be empathic and embrace flexible working for those juggling work and childcare. Family-friendly policies are invaluable and can help to build a supportive environment, and – when done right – can  build tremendous goodwill and employee loyalty.

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft said:

“These numbers paint a stark picture in the context of children going back to school this week – the lack of access to childcare is putting a big strain on working mothers, one that risks them being pushed out of the workforce entirely. Businesses need to recognise this issue quickly and find ways of offering the support working mothers need. At its core, this means better embedding gender equality initiatives into HR policies and company culture.

“With 1 in 6 (16%) revealing they are worried that is impacting their chances of a promotion in the future, organisations need to ease the pressure working mums feel about how their situation is being perceived by their managers. It’s critical that organisations offer support to their employees, being empathetic and understanding of individual circumstances during this uncertain time. Companies should continue to identify talented women and look for the best career paths to accelerate their growth and impact, despite juggling work and home commitments.

“During this challenging time, it’s crucial we ensure decades of progress towards gender equality in the workplace is not reversed. This means getting management and executives – who often have unfair, unconscious biases – to recognise their own decision-making processes and make the necessary changes to support and help those that need us the most.  We must not forget – in the current climate, these are the people we need the most.”

Kathryn Barnes, European Employment Counsel at Globalization Partners added

“In striving for workplace equality and flexibility, businesses must never forget that management and cultural authenticity determine the success of every relevant decision, activity and message. The ability of employers to enact meaningful change is directly linked to the quality of their organisational values and whether they are effectively shared across their entire team.

“The obligations and options for European employers to implement family-friendly working include part-time roles, job shares, remote and home working, antenatal and maternity/paternity support, childcare support and career breaks/leave, among others. But among the most important is whether employers are genuinely able to accommodate flexible working requests. If an employee is struggling with the hours they are working, for example, employers should be facilitating temporary or permanent change without any impact on job security where possible. If an employer unjustifiable refuses a flexible working request the employee has the ability to challenge that in a legal forum.”