Published: 09:08, 04 January 2021
| Updated: 09:10, 04 January 2021
The TUC is calling on employers to offer furlough to all parents affected by school closures.
It comes amid growing confusion over the reopening of schools after the Christmas holidays, with many primaries across Kent reopening today despite a request by Kent County Council to allow them to close amid concerns over the safety of pupils and teaching staff.
Secondary schools are due to embark on a phased return next Monday, January 11.
Meanwhile, the government last week announced all primaries in London would close. PM Boris Johnson said at the weekend "schools are safe".
The TUC says "this series of chaotic statements and last minute approach" has left working parents in "real difficulties".
The job retention scheme allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare. Furlough is available from a minimum of seven days – which would allow mums and dads to share childcare over the coming weeks – and can also be given on a part-time basis.
But the TUC is concerned "not all bosses are aware that caring responsibilities are an acceptable reason to furlough, so many mums and dads will have no choice but to take unpaid time off work to care for their children – or even be forced to leave their jobs altogether".
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The health and safety of school staff, children and parents and the wider community must come first. This government has failed to keep school staff safe in their workplaces.
“With many schools closed, many families will be frantically trying to find a way to balance their work and childcare commitments.
“Without further action, many will have no choice but to cut their hours or take unpaid leave from work. This will lead to further hardship and will hit mums and single parents hardest.
“Employers must do the right thing and furlough mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare responsibilities. And the government should give all parents the right to work flexibly plus ten days’ paid parental leave each year.”