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As fathers get to stay at home, mothers are being kept at work in the UK

Several charities have responded to the unequal coronavirus stand which some firms have taken. Pregnant women are also being targeted the charities say.

Many mothers who have school-aged children have been told by their companies that they cannot work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Fathers, on the other hand, have been encouraged by some companies to do this. This is according to several organisations who provide support and legal advice to parents.

Since the advent of the pandemic legal advice lines have been overwhelmed with calls from pregnant women stating that they have been made redundant while male colleagues have been kept on.

In other instances, pregnant women have been told by their employers that they must go to work, or face being fired. This is despite being classed as a vulnerable group according to the government guidelines.

Julia Waltham, joint head of policy and influencing at charity Working Families stated that they are seeing more parents contacting them because employers are refusing to allow working from home. Most people who contact the charity are women.

Women ask to stay home to work because of the closure of schools. In several cases male employees have been permitted to work from home because of children who are no longer in school.

Too often, says Ms Waltham, it is women who are expected to stay at home when the schools are closed and many now feel vulnerable about their jobs with the coronavirus and lockdown conditions.

Working Families quoted one case where a woman had her pay cut and hours reduced since the lockdown. Anna (not her real name) says that she is constantly being told that she cannot possibly manage two children and her job at home and has been advised to reduce her hours.

It seems, said Anna, that only women get called to ask how they are managing as men with childcare are free to work as normal.

After the announcement recently about the state covering up to 80% of the salary of furloughed workers Working Families wrote to the chancellor Rishi Sunak to say that employers may be opening themselves up to sex discrimination cases in the future.

Working Families, while praising the action already taken to protect employees, has called for a clear message that businesses be as flexible as possible with staff not being ‘automatically furloughed.’

Should employers make automatic decisions about who is furloughed all evidence suggests that an overwhelming number of working mothers would find themselves in this position.

Founder of Pregnant then Screwed Joeli Brearley stated that since the schools had closed on 20th March hundreds of pregnant ladies had contacted them for advice and support in trying to juggle childcare and work commitments.

Ms Brearley stated that many of the women she had spoken to, in particularly single parents, told her that suddenly they had no income. Neither did they have any way to pay rent or buy food for their children.

This is a ‘horrible situation,’ said Ms Brearley, because there has been no clear advice from the government.

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