Thousands of new mothers who cannot find childcare risk losing their job or facing a sudden drop in income because of rules that exclude them from being furloughed.
Women are not eligible for the Government’s job retention scheme while on maternity leave. It closes to new applicants today, meaning that mothers due to return to work from today will not be able to apply.
This may force women to take unpaid or annual leave in order to look after their child, as many childcare providers have had to reduce their places to meet social distancing requirements.
Sian Elliott of the Trades Union Congress, a federation of unions, warned that unpaid leave would only last mothers so long and some would be forced out of their workplace altogether. “Women in this situation are faced with very little choice,” she said.
Parents who were in work when lockdown started could be put on furlough to allow them to look after their children. The scheme pays 80pc of their salary up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
The TUC is calling for the job retention scheme to be extended to cover new mothers and for emergency funding to be provided for the childcare sector to expand the number of places available.
More than 700 working women currently on maternity leave responded to a survey by the union body to say they could not find suitable childcare at the moment.
Ms Elliott warned that the social distancing measures which were creating the squeeze on childcare places could last for months if not longer. New mothers taking unpaid leave for six months while care remains difficult to come by would lose out on £15,268, based on an average salary of £30,353.