CIPD Voice: Issue 27
Following the Government’s announcement this week of a new lockdown period and the closure of primary and secondary schools, working parents are once again having to grapple with the challenges of balancing work with childcare and home learning for their children.
The pandemic has had a negative impact on working parents
Data from the first lockdown shows the negative impact of the pandemic on working parents. ONS data on parenting in the lockdown that started in March last year, showed that many parents had to change their work routines around childcare, and that parents were at significant risk of furlough.
Research by Working Families in October 2020, also found that 1 in 5 or 2.6 million working parents in the UK felt that they had been treated less fairly at work because of their childcare responsibilities since the onset of COVID-19.
Working mothers, in particular, have fared badly
IFS/UCL research last year showed the impact on working mothers in particular, with mothers being more likely than fathers to have left paid work since February. Among those doing paid work at home, mothers are more likely than fathers to be spending their work hours simultaneously trying to care for children.
In addition, BEIS evidence suggests that discrimination faced by pregnant women and new mothers before the pandemic was high and is likely to be accentuated by the pandemic. Data from a Pregnant Then Screwed survey of almost 20,000 mothers and pregnant women in July this year found that 46% of mothers being made redundant blame a lack of childcare provision during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is therefore really important that working parents are properly supported through this challenging period to reduce any longer-term negative impacts on their employment, career prospects, and to support gender equality and help organisations retain valuable talent.
So, how can organisations step up their support at this challenging time?
Employers must recognise that many parents could be struggling to work due to the latest round of school closures and should have plans in place to support them during this demanding time. We think there are six key areas, where support can be stepped up.
1. Follow the EHRC's guidance
Firstly, we need to ensure that we are applying non-discriminatory practice in decision-making around things like furloughing, redundancies, and short-term working. The EHRC have recently updated their guidance to remind employers about the importance of this – do take a look – as an employer it is a useful tool. It includes information on redundancy procedures and selection criteria, pregnant women, and those on maternity leave, amongst other areas.
If these solutions don’t work, then employers should also discuss with employees whether taking furlough, parental leave or some unpaid leave/ holiday would be helpful. It is worth noting that in relation to parental leave, parents are legally entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for each child or adopted child, up to their 18th birthday. A limit of 4 weeks for each child can be taken in a year and the leave should be taken as whole weeks unless the employer agrees to greater flexibility in taking individual days.
4. Make sure line managers are being inclusive and supportive
All employees will benefit from inclusive and supportive managers and the principles of good people management are important here. Managers should:
- Hold regular one-to-one’s with employees to discuss any work and personal concerns.
- Make any adjustments (such as flexible working) that are needed at home or in the physical workspace.
- Set clear objectives and manage by outputs rather than inputs.
- Maintain a focus on employee health and wellbeing.
- Review whether working practices are going well for both the individual and team.
Claire McCartney: Senior Policy Adviser, Resourcing and Inclusion
Claire is the Resourcing and Inclusion Policy Adviser at the CIPD. For the last two years she has been running her own research and consultancy organisation.
Claire specialises in the areas of diversity & inclusion, flexible working, resourcing and talent management. She has also conducted research into meaning and trust at work, age diversity, workplace carers and enterprise and has worked on a number of international projects. She is the author of several reports and articles and regularly presents at seminars and conferences.
Prior to her roles at the CIPD, Claire was Principal Researcher at Roffey Park where she conducted research projects into a variety of topics including Roffey Park’s annual Management Agenda survey, work-life balance, flexible working, employee volunteering, talent management, and diversity. Claire has also worked with a range of clients on tailored research needs.