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North east politicians call for pressure on firms to grant furlough to parents

By Kirsty Brown

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Employers are being urged to grant staff furlough for childcare purposes as schools and nurseries remain closed amid a surge in coronavirus cases across Scotland.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Gordon MP Richard Thomson have written to both the Scottish and UK Governments calling for encouragement to employers to grant furlough as pressure mounts on parents and carers to work full-time jobs and undertake caring responsibilities.

According to the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, first introduced nine months ago, firms can furlough parents unable to work due to a lack of childcare.

However, it is up to individual employers to grant permission for any request on a case by case basis.

It comes after the Trades Union Congress has called for working parents trying to balance work and childcare to be put on furlough while schools are closed.

The umbrella trade body for UK trades unions has warned many families will face “frantically” looking for a solution as schools move online for remote working.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, the north-east politicians urged the UK Government to put more pressure on employers to allow furlough for parents and carers, urging for further support for single parents.

MSP Gillian Martin and MP Richard Thomson
MSP Gillian Martin and MP Richard Thomson

Commenting, Gillian Martin said: “Parents are being put under increasing pressure as schools return to remote learning to provide educational support whilst also performing in full-time jobs – all while at home.

“While restrictions are absolutely necessary in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus, employers also need to be realistic about the strain staff are going to face as they look after children, support their distanced learning and work in a full-time role.

"We also must be mindful that grandparents step in at times like these, and older people are vulnerable to the virus.

“We are urging both the Scottish and UK Governments to speak with employers and give a strong response to the calls from the TUC to support our working parents.

"This is particularly urgent for lone parents.

“These are unprecedented times and parents and carers must have the option of furlough.”

MP Richard Thomson said: “While no-one wanted to see the return to school delayed for pupils, we have to do all that is necessary to ensure people’s safety from the virus, and that includes helping people to do all that governments are currently asking of them.

“There are real pressures on working parents, especially single parents, even at the best of times.

"However, asking parents to try to work at the same time as supporting their children’s home learning is in some cases asking the near impossible.

“It’s important that the message reaches employers that not only are they able to furlough staff who have issues over accessing childcare, they should also be willing to use furlough in this way to support those parents and their families facing very real childcare issues right now.”

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