Why discouraging key workers from sending children to school could impact women further

Discouraging parents who are key workers from sending their children to school to ease the burden on the education system during the latest lockdown will be a “disaster” for gender equality, an employment lawyer has warned.

Hannah Strawbridge, founder of Halifax-based Han Law, says working mums are having to bear the brunt of schooling children at home.

A poll of over 2,000 mothers of primary school aged children, by campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, found that 21 per cent said they had either lost their job or quit since this second lockdown started.

Hannah Strawbridge, founder of Halifax-based Han Law, says working mums are having to bear the brunt of schooling children at home. She told The Yorkshire Post: “My big concern is that the Government makes these last-minute decisions, which is what might be needed to stop the spread of Covid-19, with absolutely no consideration of how this impacts people’s livelihoods and particularly women’s livelihoods.”

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Ms Strawbridge added that the survey carried out by Pregnant Then Screwed suggests women are having to prioritise childcare duties over work.

The campaign group says firms are often not allowing furlough for parents, which means they are left juggling the two and self-employed mothers aren’t able to take on work. Ministers have urged key workers to keep their children at home rather than sending them to school if that is possible, in instances such as where they are working from home.

Ms Strawbridge said: “The media and the Government is laying a lot of guilt and a lot of pressure on parents to keep their children at home when actually they need to go to work. The teachers are saying schools are bursting at the seams. That’s not their fault but if the Government had managed this properly then schools would have had more time to get prepared.

“This lockdown is different because people are really feeling it mentally but also nearly all businesses are back to normal.

“Whereas in the first lockdown the roads were dead. It’s not changed around here. People are going to work.”

Ms Strawbridge believes businesses can and should be encouraged to utilise the furlough scheme, where possible, for employees who feel they can’t juggle both childcare and work.

She added: “The Government could have pushed that a little bit more. For example, say to businesses that to avoid schools becoming overrun, where someone asks you to be furloughed for childcare reasons encourage that to happen unless you’ve got really good evidence or reasons why you need that person in that role.”

‘Be more transparent on job cuts’

Hannah Strawbridge set up her own legal business after becoming frustrated at the lack of flexibility offered by traditional law firms.

The Halifax-based lawyer has also created the Fair Redundancy Pledge. It’s a campaign that gets businesses to pledge transparency over their redundancy processes, to show how many of those affected are women and from ethnic minority backgrounds.

She said: “The purpose of this is that hopefully it encourages businesses to think and be more aware as to whether certain groups are being disproportionately affected.”

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James Mitchinson