Nurses using up annual leave to provide childcare – INMO survey
Most nurses and midwives with childcare needs are using up annual leave to care for their children, an INMO survey has found.
The survey also found that a substantial minority (22%) were using paid childminders of some sort, with the majority paying over €100 a week above the usual amount so that they could attend work.
The survey’s results will be presented to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response today (Tuesday).
Over 1,800 INMO members with childcare needs responded to the union’s survey, which found:
- 62% have taken annual leave to care for children,
- 22% are using paid childminders while at work,
- 10% are using grandparents to care for children,
- 69% did not have a partner available to provide childcare – often because they are a single parent, or their partner is another essential worker.
When asked what form they would like childcare assistance to take in the coming months, the most popular solution among respondents was to allow parents to source their own childcare and be reimbursed by the employer.
The INMO is calling for the Oireachtas committee to recommend a range of measures, including:
- Reimbursement of any additional childcare costs incurred during COVID-19,
- Compensation for annual leave used to care for children,
- A scheme to pay healthcare workers for any childcare they source themselves,
- Priority access for nurses and midwives in access to preschools, creches, and childminding,
- Reopening of schools to facilitate children of essential workers.
The union’s presentation to the Oireachtas today also sets out its concerns on international recruitment, while also detailing the many representations it made to government on the childcare issue without resolution.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“There has rightly been applause and praise for frontline healthcare workers over the past three months. Yet when the applause dies down, many will be left out of pocket and without any leave. Our members say they feel abandoned.
“We have long sought a solution to the childcare problem facing our members. They want to do their jobs, while also knowing that their children are being looked after. This is not an unreasonable demand.
“Nobody doubts that childcare in a pandemic is a difficult issue, but so far that difficulty has landed on those who are taking the greatest risks during the pandemic.
“One in ten COVID cases in this country are nurses. We must support them better.”
INMO President, Martina Harkin-Kelly, said:
“Our nursing and midwifery members feel let down as parents. There has been an abject failure to provide adequate childcare support. Our members want to do their jobs as professionals without impediment.”
“The INMO’s Executive Council’s view is that this remains a critical issue for our members. A solution must be found quickly to ensure continuity of safe patient care.”
Notes to Editors:
The survey was sent to INMO members via email, SMS and social media. There were 1,826 respondents.
Respondents were able to leave anonymous comments on the survey, a selection of which are below:
“Both my husband and I are nurses and have found it extremely stressful trying to organise childcare and in the end having to rely on grandparents. There has to be a better alternative.”
“I work as public health nurse in busy rural area. I cancelled my parental leave to work full time to provide care to all my patients as usual. I felt my role as PHN was perceived as more important than my role as mother.”
“I feel that the lack of assistance in relation to safe childcare has caused increased stress to both myself and my family. I count myself lucky that I was able to find a person willing to take the risk of coming to my house to mind my children. This took a while to sort and it caused some anxiety for my kids, who were already worried about me working in the Emergency Department and caring for COVID patients.”
“I am in community nursing. My husband is a Garda. The stress on us with three school-going children has been immense in every sense. I don't really want to hear the government thanking us and calling us heroes. They have neglected this huge issue we need help now with childcare now - financial assistance specifically. This is not going to change in the next coming months. The problem will remain if the schools only open part-time. This issue has been handled disgracefully”
“My parents were minding our children as we couldn’t afford childcare costs. When the coronavirus hit, we had to take a three-month mortgage break to afford additional childcare costs.”