Background - What difficulties are parents facing?
BALANCING WORK ALONGSIDE CHILDCARE
Difficulties balancing work alongside childcare responsibilities, given the closure of schools and as many parents are having to work from home:
- Given the closure of some schools and workplaces, parents are having difficulties balancing their childcare responsibilities with their jobs. According to a study conducted by CanadaLife, two-fifths of working parents are currently homeschooling their children whilst working full time.(Source)
- Parents are unable to rely on informal childcare arrangements such as asking grandparents to look after children during parents’ working hours, given that older people belong to the vulnerable category for COVID-19 and therefore, have to be socially distanced from.
- Employers are not being sufficiently flexible about the working hours of parents that have to balance childcare responsibilities whilst working.
Negative financial implications as a result of job losses or furlough:
- Employers have less work for parents to do due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the working hours for some have been reduced, employees are being furloughed and some are even being made redundant. This means that the financial security of parents is threatened, which reduces their ability and capacity to adequately care for their children.
- Parents have to take unpaid leave or are being asked to take unpaid leave in order to give them sufficient time to care for their children.
Effects being felt on mental health:
- Parents are finding it stressful to balance work alongside their childcare responsibilities. A study by CanadaLife revealed that 41% of parents in the UK reported the stress and mental difficulties of balancing home-schooling and working.
- Parents are struggling with negative thoughts about their career as a result of their increased childcare responsibilities. A poll by Pregnant Then Screwed showed that 57% of mothers believe that increased childcare responsibilities had either negatively impacted their career prospects currently or will do so in the future.
What support is available to parents?
- Parents can ask their employers if they are eligible to be furloughed. If furloughed, parents do not have to work, but will still be paid up to 80% of their wages (up to £2,500 a month per person), which will be covered by the government.
- However, to be furloughed, employees have to be on the payroll and must have started their employment on or before the 19th of March 2020.
UNPAID PARENTAL LEAVE:
- Parents who have worked with their employers for a year are entitled to take unpaid parental leave to take care of their children under the age of 18.
- In a year, each parent is only allowed to take off 4 weeks for each child, unless their employer permits a longer duration. However, you have to inform your employer 21 days before the intended start date of your parental leave.
- Your employer can force you to take unpaid leave if there isn’t sufficient work for you. This is called being “laid-off”. But, your employer can only do this if your employment contract specifically states that your employer has a right to do so. If your employment contract does not give your employer the right to force you to take unpaid leave, then as an employee, you have a choice on whether or not to take unpaid leave if your employer proposes it to you.
- However, you are entitled to apply for a redundancy payment from your employer in the following instances:
- If you have been laid-off for four weeks in a row.
- If you have been laid off for six weeks within a 13-week period and during this period, you have been laid off for at least three weeks in a row.
STATUTORY SICK PAY:
- According to Gov.UK, ‘you can get £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks’.
- During COVID-19, this has expanded to include (1) if you or someone you live with has symptoms (2) if you have been asked to isolate as you may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 (3) are ‘shielding’.
- Check whether you are entitled to such sick pay
- Universal Credit is an allowance that you may be entitled to if you have (1) children (2) need help paying your rent or (3) have a disability or health condition that prevents you from working.
- For more information, access this link and this link.
- If your child is under 16 or under 20 and if they are in ‘approved training or education’, you can claim child benefit. It is paid every 4 weeks, and there is no limit to how many children, although only one person can claim for one child.
- Information on how to register for new babies here
OTHER BENEFIT PAYMENTS:
- If you are self-employed - check to see if you can be entitled to benefits
- If you are on a pension - you can find more information here
- ‘If you claim through the tax-free childcare scheme, this is usually based on a three-month period, so support will depend on when you next need to report your income. You can withdraw money from your tax-free childcare account, but for every £8 you take out, the government will take back its £2 contribution.’ More info.
- Information on if the child is entitled to free school meals (which are being supported through the pandemic)
- If you’re currently getting tax credits and you cannot work or you’re working fewer hours because of coronavirus, you do not need to tell HMRC about this change as long as you’re still employed or self-employed’ BUT changes to circumstances must be expressed.
- Working Tax Credit has increased by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021.
- You cannot claim both Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. Once you apply for Universal Credit, you can no longer claim Working Tax Credit.
OTHER TYPES OF SUPPORT:
- NHS Every Mind Matters (Link)
- Public Health England (Link)
- Local Support Groups by Location (Link)
- National Day Nurseries Association (Link)
- Mumsnet (by parents for parents) (Link)
- Gingerbread (tailored towards providing support for single parents) (Link)
- COVID Mutual Aid (provide help though shopping/supplies etc.) (Link)
- George Ormond Street Hospital (specialised guidance if your child has a long-term health condition (Link)
- Family Lives (Helpline) (Link)
SPECIALIST SUPPORT FOR BAME WOMEN:
- Sahleiya offers counselling services and childcare for children aged 7 and below.
ARTICLES AND WEBSITES:
- An in-depth, thorough article that provides detailed guidance on how to parent during the pandemic, and how to take care of both yourself and your children.
- Working Families website, which provides advice to parents (Link)
- The Money Advice Service - information on the link between struggling for money and poor mental wellbeing (Link)
- “Family and Childcare Trust” website to search for childcare support (Link)
- “Working Mums” platform to search for part-time jobs, home-based jobs and flexible full-time jobs (Link)
CURRENT STATUS OF THE OPENING OF SCHOOLS AND CHILDMINDERS:
Updated July 15th 2020
- From the 1st of June, primary schools have been allowed to be open to children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, in addition to priority groups (vulnerable children and children of key workers). However, only a quarter of eligible students are allowed in school at any one time. Also, students that return to school are encouraged to travel separately and avoid public transport.
- From the 15th of June, secondary schools, sixth-form and further education colleges have been allowed to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10, year 12, and (age) 16-19 students who have to take exams next year, in addition to the full-time schooling being offered to priority students.
- Nurseries and other early year providers, including child-minders, are currently open to children again.
NB: It is NOT compulsory for any parent to send their children back to school, even in light of the fact that some schools are opened. Additionally, not all schools have reopened. This is due to local council advice against reopening or because they do not have the staff or space to safely accommodate pupils.