The school holidays may be approaching but the lead up to this year’s long summer holidays is like nothing we’ve experienced before. Research conducted by campaigners Pregnant Then Screwed during the pandemic shows that working mums have felt the biggest burden of the closure of nurseries and schools with 75% of working mums struggling with managing childcare along with their paid work.
Since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March 2020, we’ve had to cope and adapt to the situation in the best way that each of us can, but signs are that it will have impacted our mental, physical and financial wellbeing. And uncertainty continues as we adjust to life as lockdown measures ease, the economy dips and Covid-19 looms overhead like a dark threatening cloud.
We’re being assured that schools will open fully in September to all year groups; nurseries have already started to increase their numbers, so here is a rundown of possible childcare options during summer 2020 holidays:
Local councils are being actively encouraged to put on activities for children over the summer. Arrangements may not be as previous years but do check out your local council’s website for details of specific holiday activities being arranged in your area. Also check on activities being arranged by local sports clubs and private providers – with clubs and providers having to close their doors for the last 4 months they will be welcoming people back with open (socially-distanced) arms.
Friends and Family
With the government’s current guidance being that two households can provide a support bubble with each other and be inside each other’s houses, it’s now possible to create arrangements with friends or family members to be together.
Perhaps work out practical arrangements to look after each other’s children with a family with similar aged children or ask friends or relatives with time on their hands to take care of your children to give you time to focus on your paid work (and/or take a break). Are there any suitable young adults in your social circle who could provide childcare for you – perhaps students home from university or responsible teenagers?
If you haven’t already, you can ask your employer to alter your working arrangements to allow you to continue to work and care for your children or alternate the responsibility with your partner. This could include allowing you to work from home or altering your hours and/or days of work.
The Government have said that wherever possible, employee’s should be allowed to work from home. Many employers are going further than this by allowing staff to reduce their days, start work earlier, at weekends or in the evening so that they can balance home and work life better, in the current situation.
If your employer is being resistant, you do have the right to make a formal flexible working request. This would be a permanent change to your working arrangements, unless agreed in writing that it is only on a temporary basis.
Furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“the CJRS”)
You may have already been furloughed and you can request this to continue over the summer if you are unable to work due to childcare and/or caring commitments.
In these circumstances, your employer can claim for 80% of your wages up to £2,500 per month. They can chose to “top up” the extra so you still receive 100% but they do not have to do so. If you are furloughed, you continue to remain employed by your employer but cannot carry out any work for them. Your employer may ask you to take annual leave during your furlough leave and if you do so, this should be paid at your normal pay (100%).
You can ask to use your annual leave. In addition to taking a traditional week or two off, you can explore ways to be creative with your annual leave by taking days off each week, or part-days so that your your working days are shorter.
You can request a reasonable amount of time off where necessary for anyone who relies on you for care, to deal with unforeseen or emergency situations. The closure of schools and nurseries, or older relatives not being able to help with childcare would fall into these categories.
Whilst it is normally taken for short periods of time, without any alternatives available at this present time, there is an argument to say that it should last as long as schools and nurseries remain closed and other family members or friends cannot assist. The leave can be taken for a few hours a day, or in blocks of time and should not be refused, given at present it is likely to be both reasonable and necessary for parents and carers to need the time off.
This type of leave is usually unpaid unless your employer has a policy in place which provides for you to be paid.
Parental leave is available to all employees who have 1 years’ continuous service, who have children under 18 years of age. You can take 4 weeks’ leave per child, per year and must be taken in blocks of 1 week.
You must give 21 days’ notice (albeit this can be shorter by agreement) and unfortunately, unlike dependant’s leave, an employer can refuse a request for parental leave or postpone it where there would be disruption to their business if it were allowed.
Again, this type of leave is usually unpaid unless your employer has a policy in place which provides for you to be paid.
Ask your employer if you can take unpaid leave for as long as necessary in order to look after their children. Your employment would continue throughout and the terms of the leave down to agreement with your employer.
If you or anyone you live with is suffering from or has symptoms of COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111, you should self-isolate. You will be able to receive, as a minimum, Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) from your first day of absence from work. You may be entitled to enhanced sick pay depending on your employer’s sickness absence policy.
Summer 2020 is likely to be a different summer experience from usual, but we hope that you are able to create wonderful moments and memories with your family and time to switch off ahead of the planned September return to our new normal.
Let us know how you get on in our Career-Mums Club on Facebook – we’re in there every day offering inspiration and support for working parents and those on a career break and would love to hear from you.