One in five working parents has faced unfair treatment at work since COVID onset

working mum

Work-life balance charity Working Families has today released figures that show that 1 in 5—or 2.6 million —working parents in the UK feel they have been treated less fairly at work because of their childcare responsibilities since the onset of COVID-19.

The stats come from a poll, which asked working parents whether they agree with the following statement: “I have felt treated less fairly at work because of my childcare responsibilities” since the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK began. 20% of working parents answered “strongly agree” or “tend to agree”. Mothers were more likely to agree with the statement than fathers. Part-time workers were much more likely to agree with the statement than full-time workers.

This polling—launched during National Work Life Week —underpins the charity’s call for adding caring responsibilities to the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act, providing a legal foundation on which to tackle workplace discrimination against parents and carers.

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “At the height of lockdown, the Prime Minister made clear that parents must be ‘defended and protected’ if they are unable to work because they cannot get the childcare they need. But there is currently no legal or regulatory mechanism to defend or protect working parents in the way the Prime Minister has suggested. In terms of childcare, we are certainly not back to ‘business as usual’—since schools reopened in September, parents have continued to struggle, managing staggered school times, gaps in wraparound care provision, and the ever-present risk of being required to self-isolate.

“With millions of parents facing unfair treatment at work just for having caring responsibilities—and waves of COVID-related redundancies around the corner—now is the time for the Government to act and make being a parent or carer a protected characteristic.”

The poll findings and policy call above are part of a new report from Working Families, launching Friday, called “Flexistability: Building Back Better for the UK’s Working Families”. The report takes the lessons learned from COVID-19 and outlines a labour market and rights framework where all parents can access and progress in quality, permanent, genuinely two-sided flexible work.