The childcare sector should get an urgent cash boost from Government to help working mums return to their jobs, union chiefs have said.
Analysis by the Trades Union Congress shows that women have borne the brunt of the coronavirus crisis both on the health and social care frontline as well as at home.
Many mothers have picked up responsibility for childcare while nurseries and schools were shut - sacrificing hours and pay to do so.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warned the Government was in danger of “turning the clock back” on decades of progress in the workplace.
But many cash-strapped nurseries, which were badly hit by the lockdown, need extra funding to stay open and help parents get back to work.
Elderly grandparents are also less able to help out while many breakfast and after-school clubs are not running this term.
The unions also want the job retention scheme - which comes to an end in October - extended for parents who can’t yet go back because of childcare responsibilities.
It comes as Boris Johnson pushes for more workers to get back to the office amid concerns over the economic impact on empty town centres.
A new poll for the TUC found that 41% of working mums with children under 10 will struggle get enough childcare to cover the hours they need for work this September.
As children around England begin to return to school, the ICM survey reveals that many mums are missing out on their usual forms of childcare.
Among those certain they will be unable to get enough childcare, 45% said they don’t have their usual help from friends and family, 35% said they can’t get places at after school clubs, 28% have lost childcare provided by school breakfast clubs while 28% don’t have their usual nursery or child-minder available.
Ms O’Grady said: “Women workers have borne the brunt of this crisis – both on the frontline and at home.
“Mums have picked up the majority of childcare while nurseries and schools have been closed.
“And many have sacrificed hours and pay to do so – especially those in low-paid jobs who can least afford the financial hit.
“But this can’t go on. If we don’t take this childcare crisis seriously women will be pushed out of the workforce, turning the clock back on decades of labour market progress.
“Childcare providers desperately need new government cash to stay open. And we need an extension to the job retention scheme for mums and dads who can’t return to work because of childcare responsibilities.”
The poll also shines a light on the huge pressures felt by working mums during the coronavirus outbreak.
The vast majority, 90%, said they have taken on more childcare responsibilities since the pandemic began.
More than two in five (43%) said they have had to combine working at home and childcare – compared to less than three in ten (29%) of their partners.
In addition, 30% of mums said they regularly worked before 8am or after 8pm to balance work and childcare.
One in six – mostly those in low-paid jobs – said that they have had no choice but to reduce their working hours.
Other mothers have felt the stress of trying to ‘do it all’ and one in five now worry how they will be viewed by their managers.
One in six admitted they were worried that it has impacted on their chances of a promotion in the future.