Some parents could be forced to spend virtually the entire day balancing work commitments and childcare responsibilities during the Covid-19 lockdown, experts have warned.
School closures and restrictions on leaving the house will directly impact around half of children’s waking hours, according to a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
It warns that working parents will struggle to reconcile their new childcare and homeschooling responsibilities with the demands of their jobs without greater flexibility on when they can work.
The report calls on the Chancellor to consider offering 80% wage replacement to employees who reduce their working hours to accommodate childcare responsibilities during the pandemic.
Schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK closed four weeks ago to the majority of pupils, apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters.
In a new briefing, the IFS notes that working parents already spent around 60% of their non-sleeping time either working or with their children before the coronavirus pandemic.
Now parents are facing greater responsibilities for supervising and educating their children amid closures and social distancing measures, at the same time as many are working from home.
The IFS report analysed data collected for parents and children aged eight and older in 2014–15 to shed a light on the groups that may be significantly affected by new social distancing rules.
Before the pandemic, children aged eight and older spent on average around 30 hours a week at school during term-time and another 22 hours a week on activities outside the home.
Angus Phimister, a research economist at IFS, said: “Working parents already spent around two-thirds of their waking hours at work or with their children; if they need to supervise all of their children’s disrupted time, this could take up virtually the entire day for some.”
Christine Farquharson, a senior research economist at IFS, said: “Working parents will need flexibility on when – not just where – they do their work.
“Parents who give up work completely during the lockdown are already eligible to have 80% of their earnings paid by the Treasury.
“But the Chancellor should consider extending the programme to reimburse lost earnings for parents who choose to work fewer hours. This could be a costly giveaway, but it would give families the flexibility to make the best choice for themselves.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “The Chancellor has outlined an unprecedented package of measures to protect millions of people’s jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus.
“People who are unable to work because they’re caring for a child or a vulnerable family member or friend should speak to their employer about whether they plan to place their staff on furlough. The government will cover 80% of the salary of furloughed workers.”