Childcare needs emergency bailout to save women’s jobs, says TUC

  • Nurseries and childminders at risk of collapse without an urgent cash boost, warns TU
  • Childcare provision ‘vital’ to economic recovery so mums can go back to work

The TUC is today (Thursday) calling for an emergency government bailout of the childcare industry.

In a new report, the TUC argues that an urgent cash boost – similar to the financial help given to transport networks – is needed so childcare providers can continue to offer the levels of care they were providing before the pandemic. And it would allow nurseries, childminders, breakfast and after school childcare and holiday schemes to remain open with social distancing measures in places.

The childcare challenge

Childcare is a vital part of our economic recovery, says the TUC, but at least one in four nurseries may struggle to reopen. If the childcare they have relied on suddenly becomes unavailable, many mums could lose their jobs or pay as they struggle to balance work and care.

As lockdown eases, parents are facing a massive childcare challenge in the coming days and months:

  • Some nurseries will not reopen, falling victim to the economic crisis
  • Some childcare settings will only open on reduced hours or with fewer places to enable social distancing
  • Wraparound before and after school care will be unavailable or very limited
  • NHS Track and Trace may require childcare providers and schools to shut down at very short notice following an outbreak

The TUC is concerned that a lack of childcare risks mums having to leave their jobs. This would reverse decades of progress women have made in the labour market and increase the gender pay gap – as well as having a damaging impact on national economic productivity.

Emergency measures

In addition to a government cash bailout, the TUC is calling for a range of emergency measures to prevent widespread job losses among working parents whose childcare arrangements have now disappeared, or who face future childcare gaps:

  • Protect women from unfair redundancies: the government must make it clear that employers are breaking the law if they unfairly select women for redundancy because they are struggling with childcare
  • Enable mums and dads to balance work and childcare: give staff the right to work as flexibly as possible from their first day in the job. Flexible working can take lots of different forms, including having predictable or set hours, working from home, job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time working
  • Make sure parental leave is fit for purpose: Give all workers, regardless of their employment status, a day one right to 10 days paid parental leave. This could be used, for example, to cover parents who are unable to work during a 14-day self-isolation mandated by NHS Track and Trace
  • Protect women’s jobs during the Covid-19 crisis: A limited form of the job retention scheme should remain in place beyond October to support parents who are unable to return to work because of childcare responsibilities until schools and childcare settings are fully reopened

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Our childcare sector is on the brink of collapse – and it’s putting women’s jobs on the line. If childcare places disappear, women will be pushed out of the workforce.

“Women workers are bearing the brunt of this crisis, both on the frontline and at home. Mums have picked up the majority of childcare while nurseries and schools have been closed – and many have had to sacrifice work hours and pay to do so.

“The government can’t stand by while mums are forced out of their jobs. Childcare is necessary if we are going to work our way out of this economic crisis and stop the misery of mass unemployment. If we’re all in this together, nurseries desperately need government cash to stay open.”

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