Nearly half of mothers and pregnant women who have already been made redundant or expect to be made redundant in the near future say a lack of available chidcare was key to their losing their jobs.
A survey of 19,950 mothers and pregnant women, conducted by campaign group Pregnant then Screwed, found that 15% of respondents had lost their jobs or expected to lose them.
Of these, 46% said a lack of childcare was an important factor in their redundancy, and campaigners are concerned that even more women may find be laid off as workplace Coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.
The vast majority – 81% – of mothers and pregnant women said they needed access to childcare in order to attend work, but 51% said they were not able to find anyone to look after their kids.
“On the 1st August we are expecting to hear from Boris that employers will be given ‘more discretion’ to consider how their staff can continue working safely,” Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said.
“But this completely ignores the realities facing women, that 51% of mothers simply do not have the childcare in place to be able to return to work.
“This lack of childcare is destroying women’s careers, they are being made redundant, they are being forced to cut their hours, and they are being treated negatively all because they are picking up the unpaid labour.”
Indeed, 72% of respondents to the survey said they had been forced to work fewer hours due to difficulties accessing childcare and 65% of those who are on the government’s Job Retention Scheme said they had been furloughed because they had no one to look after their kids.
Self-employed mothers, too, are struggling, with nearly three-quarters – 74% – saying their earning potential had fallen. This is worsened still by government schemes that disproportionately burden women, as Brearley explains.
“Self-employed women have had an unbelievable ride during Covid-19, with women who have taken maternity leave in the last three years seeing their government support cut by a third or even two-thirds if they have had two maternity leaves, compared to dads who are not impacted financially by maternity leave,” she said.
Employers have also been found not to be meeting their health and safety obligations to their pregnant staff – who are currently classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ to the Coronavirus – with 45% of pregnant women working outside the home not having received a risk assessment, rising to 52% among black, Asian and minority ethnic women.
“We need the government to open its eyes to the gender imbalance that Covid-19 is exacerbating and we need to help pregnant women and mums to be treated on merit, not on how many kids they have. The time to change this is now,” Brearley said.