Schools shutting down will be 'hard for working parents'

From 20/03/20 all schools in the UK will be shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which may prove to be “hard for working parents”.

Gavin Williamson, education secretary announced on the 18/03/20 in parliament that all schools, private schools, further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and early-years care providers should close down.

Still, schools will remain open to children of “key workers” such as NHS staff, emergency services workers and delivery drivers so they can still carry out their jobs uninterrupted.

Scotland and Wales had already made this announcement earlier in the day, with Northern Ireland closing their schools on the 18/03/20.

Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage said:

During this time of crisis, employers need to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all its staff, whatever their situation. While the health and safety of teachers and pupils are of course of the upmost importance right now, there is no denying that school and nursery closures are going to be hard for working parents.

At this critical time employers need to be as accommodating as possible and be mindful of those who need to look after their families. Recent research has shown that only 14 per cent of UK workers have been told to work from home by their employer during the coronavirus outbreak – but having this facility and more flexible working hours will be a huge benefit for working parents right now to reduce the extra pressures. Businesses must encourage employees to talk about their families and concerns with their employees and offer as much support as possible – there’s never been a more crucial time to put the right and necessary support structures in place.

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, the UK’s work-life balance charity said:

Many working parents and carers with young children are already working from home, as recommended by the Government. Now that schools are closed, they find themselves needing to juggle work with looking after their children – including supporting their learning – at home.

Employers should continue to pay parents and carers as usual while they are working from home. Now’s the time for line managers to have sensible and understanding conversations with parents and carers of young children – particularly those working full-time – about what is needed, and what is and isn’t possible, over the coming weeks.

It’s important that the Government provides support to employers that can’t afford to continue to pay staff who are unable to work from home. This includes small employers that cannot afford to absorb any fall in productivity due to the parents and carers they employ having to work from home whilst looking after their children. Particular attention should be paid to supporting parents and carers in insecure work, including the self-employed, as they are most at risk of not being paid.

Now’s also the time for the Government to remind employers of parents’ and carers’ right to emergency time off for dependants while schools are closed, which means they cannot be dismissed or treated unfavourably as a result. This is an important right for those in insecure work who are at a higher risk of not having a job to return to.