Anneliese Dodds – 2021 Letter to Rishi Sunak on Flexible Furlough

The letter sent from Anneliese Dodds, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 15 January 2021.

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,

Thank you for your letter of 7 January. I welcome the change that your department has made to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) guidance. However, I remain concerned about several remaining issues with the scheme. This follows worrying new evidence that has come to light on the impact that school closures are having on the employment of parents, particularly mothers.

Yesterday, the Trades Union Congress published results from a survey of working mothers, collected between the 7th and 10th January[1].The survey found that mothers are being particularly badly affected by school closures. A quarter are taking annual leave to manage childcare, nearly one in five have been forced to reduce their working hours and one in 14 are currently on unpaid leave and therefore receiving no income from work.

Furlough via the CJRS should be an option for the vast majority of these mothers, but 40 per cent are unaware they are eligible and 78 per cent of those mothers affected by school closures have not been offered furlough by their employer. It is particularly concerning that 7 in 10 eligible mothers who asked for furlough had their request refused by their employer. Left to continue, this situation risks forcing many parents out of work altogether.

On Monday 11th, the Leader of the Opposition argued that there should be a legal and enforceable right for working parents to request paid flexible furlough, with employers expected to grant this request except in exceptional circumstances.

I am calling on you to adopt this proposal, and to bring forward the cut-off date for furlough eligibility so that the many parents and others who have changed jobs since October 31st can make use of the scheme.

I am also again calling on you and your department to provide an evidence-led assessment of the impact that employer contributions to National Insurance and pension contributions, which were not part of the original CJRS design, may be having on employers’ uptake of the scheme.

I hope you consider the above proposals and look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely

Anneliese Dodds