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Working mums lack sufficient childcare for school summer holidays

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of working mums with primary school age children do not have sufficient childcare for the six-week school summer holidays, according to the TUC.

The situation is even worse for single mums, as more than three in four (76%) said that they don’t have adequate childcare for the upcoming break.

At the end of June this year, the TUC and campaigner Mother Pukka asked working mums to share their experiences of how they will manage their work and childcare commitments this school summer holiday, with more than 36,000 responses. 

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Restricted access to their usual network of friends or family that they can rely on to help with their childcare, as well as a lack of annual leave days, were highlighted as the main reasons mothers will struggle to cope over the summer.

Nearly one in five (18%) said they have used all their annual leave allowance already to accommodate homeschooling during previous lockdowns.

Working mums across both the public and private sectors said there were huge challenges in balancing work and childcare, with 60% saying they would find managing childcare in the holidays more difficult this year than 2020. 

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, told HR magazine working mothers will feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for a long time to come.

She said: “With the summer holidays just around the corner, HR teams should review their flexible working policy to look at what more they can do.

“Staff who can work from home should have the choice to continue, which will help working parents manage summer childcare.”

O’Grady suggested managers should extend flexibility in working hours too, such as flexi-time, compressed hours, or term-time only working.

“Flexible working should be more than just be a short-term response to the pandemic, it is great for productivity, recruitment and retention and should be at the heart of job design.

“If HR managers promote flexible working options when they advertise a job, it will be a great draw for the strongest candidates,” she said.

Working mums said they are juggling a variety of means to try and manage their childcare during the school holiday, and many are relying on being able to work more flexibly than before to help them cope.

Nearly half (48%) of mums said they were managing caring responsibilities through some form of flexible working.

Around two in five (39%) will have to combine working from home with childcare and 27% said they will work more flexibly than normal.

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse 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.”

Whitehouse said if it’s tough for a two-parent family, have a moment to consider a single parent family.

“The current system has parents at breaking point,” she added.