The Workers Union is arguing that business chiefs should furlough working parents.
The news comes as COVID-19 continues to cause chaos in the country, with 614, 222 new cases reported in the two weeks to January the 3rd.
This uptick has been accompanied by a new, more infections strain of the virus which evidence suggests is spreading at an alarming rate amongst the under-20s. The rapidly climbing spike has cast doubt on whether children should return to school after the Christmas break. However, the government’s failure to make a firm decision on this issue has left many parents in limbo.
At the time of writing, neither the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, or the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson have issued a blanket instruction to close schools in England. The picture is the same in Wales, where schools outside of COVID hotspots opened today. Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken a harder line by delaying reopening until later in January.
The Workers Union’s View on Furloughing Parents
Parents who have received confirmation that their children’s schools are closing will have frantically rearranged their days to include home schooling. Those parents waiting for a decision will be frantically trying to assess options with their employers. Neither situation is desirable, but both can be addressed by sensible measures.
In most scenarios, the extra time and resources required to teach children at home will mean employers have to grant staff additional flexibility – which makes furlough the obvious solution.
The advantages of taking this route are manifest. In the first instance, children – the future of our country – do not miss out on vital education. In the second, parents’ attention will be focused solely on their children, rather than split between work and domestic life. This is a crucial point, because the lines between the two have become blurred over the last 10 months, with negative results. For instance, we know from research conducted amongst our members that many parents have found the strain of balancing home-schooling with work very difficult. It should not surprise anybody that this has affected mental health as much as it has family finances.
Of course we understand that some employers may be unaware that they can furlough parents who cannot access childcare. Other employers may be unwilling to do so because of current workloads. But the upshot for many workers is that without an additional mechanism of support, they may be forced to consider a cut in hours or unsustainable late night working.
What is clear is that this virus is not going anywhere. It’s therefore imperative that we take measures to protect the health of working people while making sure that children do not miss out on important opportunities for intellectual development.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice every day