Ministers are urged to change the eligibility rules of the government’s coronavirus job-retention program to support working parents and others during the latest national lockdown in England.
The call came as new analysis showed nearly four million people said childcare responsibilities affected their jobs when schools were last closed.
According to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than 22 million people said the first lockdown affected their jobs. Almost four million, or 17.9%, cited childcare responsibilities as the reason.
With schools closed until the February semester at the earliest, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds called on her government counterpart Rishi Sunak to take urgent action to help those with family responsibilities through the lockdown current.
Dodds said: “Four million working parents struggled to balance work and childcare during the first lockdown.
“Almost a year later, the government is due to change the leave scheme’s eligibility rules to support working parents and other workers during the current lockdown. Childcare providers are also on the brink, with this new lockdown likely having an additional impact on attendance. ”
Under the current rules, people who start a new job after October 31 are no longer eligible for the scheme. ONS data suggests 520,000 people changed jobs between July and September of last year.
In the same data, 625,000 people changed jobs between April and June. This means that some people who started new jobs after October 31 could be denied access to time off during the last lockdown.
Dodds believes that without child care arrangements there will be a significant effect on the ability of parents to continue working.
“It’s a short-term financial consideration not to support child care providers at this time,” she says.
“This will have a huge impact on a parent’s ability to work, especially mothers, and we know mothers are already more likely to be made unemployed or to have to drastically change hours because of this crisis. This is really a critical point for a lot of families and a lot of working parents.
“The government has given us more advice on how to play tennis than what working parents should do to keep their children and protect their income. This really needs to change now.
Anne Malindine, CEO of Raised in Bristol, said: “We are asked to be the heroes of the hour, but no one was interested in our experiences before. Why are we not, for example, on the priority list for immunization? The children live in adult homes and come to the nursery every day.
“We can do our best and, without a doubt, we are, but I think there hasn’t been an opportunity for feedback from an industry that suddenly has a huge responsibility. . And I think it’s really obvious for the first time. I’ve never seen him before.
The impact of Covid-19 since March has led to a sharp drop in the number of families accessing childcare places. A survey conducted by the Early Years Alliance in November found that 25% of child care providers believed they would cease to be viable within six months if the government changed its approach to early childhood funding next year. .
According to Labor’s analysis, this could put nearly 19,000 child care providers forced to close their doors within six months, and more than 30,000 at risk of shutting down by next Christmas.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Early childhood settings remain low-risk environments for children and staff and there is no evidence that the novel variant of the coronavirus disproportionately affects young children.
“Keeping nurseries and day care facilities open will help parents and provide essential care and education for our youngest children.
“We are funding nurseries as usual and all children can attend early childhood in all parts of England. When nurseries see a decrease in income from fees paid by parents or DfE income, they can use the leave system.
“Parents who work under coronavirus support programs will remain eligible for child care assistance even if their income levels fall below the minimum requirement.”
A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “It has been clear since the first lockdown that employers can fire eligible employees who have childcare responsibilities, especially due to school closures.