A number of reports over the past week have caused fresh concerns for employers of working parents. Only this morning it was widely reported that the current testing and contact tracing system in place is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus after schools in the UK reopen in September. Given the uncertainty over the measures currently in place, employers can’t rule out the possibility of more stringent restrictions on pupil attendance being applied by local authorities, or even school closures, in the event of a second wave.
This news comes shortly after a Guardian article was published last week describing working mothers as the “sacrificial lambs” of the coronavirus childcare crisis. The article was based on a recent survey of 19,950 mothers and pregnant women by charity “Pregnant Then Screwed” which revealed that half of working mothers were unable to access the childcare that they needed to return to work and felt that the lack of childcare had a negative impact on how they were perceived or treated at work. Of those surveyed, 72% worked fewer hours due to a lack of childcare, 15% were facing redundancy or had been made redundant and cited a lack of childcare as the reason and 81% needed childcare to do their paid work but only 49% had the childcare that they required.
Schools reopening in September will go some way to addressing the strain that has been placed on many working parents and - by extension - their employers during the pandemic so far. However doubt is being cast over the country’s ability to prevent a second wave and employers would be wise to start contingency planning should restrictions on pupil attendance become a reality, being mindful of the disproportionate impact that this has had on female carers.
“The success of September’s return to school rests as much on what happens outside the school gates as within. The government needs to ensure that everyone knows what actions they should be taking to keep everyone safe – we’re all going to need to work together to be successful.”