Almost three-quarters of working mothers who have applied for furlough funding have had their request denied, new research shows. 

New research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows the toll of navigating a COVID working world for mothers as over seven in 10 working mothers report having their furlough requests denied.

As it currently stands, it is permitted for working parents to be placed on furlough if they are deemed to have “caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus”.

Prior to this, the TUC called on employers to offer furlough to parents that were affected by school closures that were prompted by England’s third national lockdown.

However, now, the trade union centre has stated that, due to to a lack of publicisation, many mothers are missing out on knowing that they can be furloughed.

Additionally, a TUC survey shows that many mothers who do request furlough funding are being denied by their employers, leaving them in a difficult situation which could ultimately cause many women to leave the workforce.

Overall, over seven in 10 mothers (71 per cent) who asked for furlough had their requests denied. In addition, the majority of respondents (80 per cent) stated that furlough was not offered to them from their employer.

A further two in five working mothers (40 per cent) admitted that they were not even aware they could be placed on furlough due to school and nursery closures.

This has had a significant emotional impact on working mothers with nine in 10 (90 per cent) stating that their stress and anxiety levels had increased over this third lockdown.

Furthermore, almost half (48 per cent) of women were concerned about being treated negatively by their employer as a result of their childcare responsibilities.

However, financial problems were also a significant issue that weighed on the minds of working mothers. Over two in five mothers (44 per cent) expressed that they would be worried about their finances if they had to take time off work.

A quarter of mothers (25 per cent) were using annual leave to manage their childcare – but nearly a fifth (18 per cent) had been forced to reduce their working hours and around 1 in 14 (7 per cent) were taking unpaid leave from work and receiving no income.

As a result, the TUC have stated that current laws around parental leave and sick pay in the UK are leaving working parents in impossible situations where they are forced to either risk their job or lose a massive amount of income.

Therefore, the union body are calling on the Government to introduce various measures such as:

  • The introduction of a temporary right to furlough for groups that cannot work because of COVID-19 restrictions
  • Ten days’ paid carers leave for all parents, from the start of the job
  • A right to flexible work for all parents which could include job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time working
  • An increase in sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage, for everyone in work
  • Newly self-employed parents to have access to the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS)

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said:

The safety of school staff and children must always come first. But the government’s lack of support for working parents is causing huge financial hardship and stress – and hitting low-paid mums and single parents hardest.

Just like in the first lockdown, mums are shouldering the majority of childcare. Tens of thousands of mums have told us they are despairing. It’s neither possible nor sustainable for them to work as normal, while looking after their children and supervising schoolwork.

Making staff take weeks of unpaid leave isn’t the answer. Bosses must do the right thing and offer maximum flexibility to mums and dads who can’t work because of childcare. And as a last resort, parents must have a temporary right to be furloughed where their boss will not agree.

The UK’s parental leave system is one of the worst in Europe. It’s time for the government to give all parents the right to work flexibly, plus at least ten days’ paid carers leave each year.

*The TUC surveyed 51,735 working mums between 7-10 January 2021, recruiting them via trade union and social media channels. Around 3,100 (1 in 16) mums had requested furlough. Of those 3,100 who requested furlough, around 2,200 (71 per cent) had their request turned down.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.