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March of the Mummies: Why thousands of parents are protesting this weekend

More than 14,000 parents are expected to campaign for better rights during the March Of The Mummies protest this weekend. The October 2017 march. (Getty Images)
More than 14,000 parents are expected to campaign for better rights during the March Of The Mummies protest this weekend. The October 2017 march. (Getty Images)

Thousands of mothers are expected to join the March of the Mummies protest this weekend to demand reform to childcare, parental leave and flexible working.

This Saturday October 29 around 14,000 parents (and counting) will be donning Halloween costumes to join the march, which is taking place across various cities in the UK, to campaign for an improvement to parenting policies including childcare.

Recent statistics have revealed parents are being forced to spend more than two-thirds of their salaries on childcare, leaving little left over to cope with other rising living expenses during the cost of living crisis.

The financial burden of childcare also means 17% of parents have left their jobs while 62% work less hours, and it is mostly women who bear the brunt of childcare, according to research from Pregnant then Screwed, the organisation behind the protest.

The day will see protesters march across 11 regions bringing parents together as part of a call to arms for urgent government reforms.

March Of The Mummies: What you need to know in nine points

What is March Of The Mummies? March Of The Mummies is a national protest to demand government reform on: childcare, parental leave and flexible working. In what is expected to be the biggest protest of mothers ever staged, more than 14,000 parents will march across the country in 11 locations at 11am on Saturday 29th October 2022. As it is Halloween, fancy dress is encouraged, hence the name – March of the Mummies!

Read more: Jane Garvey says being a working mum made her a better parent: ‘I was more patient’

In October 2017 hundreds of women took part in a march organised by Pregnant Then Screwed  to demand better rights for working mothers. (Getty Images)
In October 2017 hundreds of women took part in a march organised by Pregnant Then Screwed to demand better rights for working mothers. (Getty Images)

Why are parents protesting? The statistics surrounding working parents speak for themselves. Pregnant Then Screwed says “54,000 women a year lose their job simply for getting pregnant”. In addition, 390,000 working mums “experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year”.

Meanwhile the UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world, the third worst ranking maternity pay and the least generous paternity leave in Europe, while mothers face 45% lower earnings in the six years after giving birth.

The protest therefore aims to shine a light on the frustration, fear and fury of families navigating the childcare and parental leave landscape.

What are the protest demands? Protest organisers believe there are three key issues that need tackling including the provision of good quality, affordable childcare for all children, a wider acceptance of the premise of flexible working and for this to be the default for all employees and the provision of properly paid parental leave.

Protesters are campaigning for the government to acknowledge the problems and set out a plan of action to improve things.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 77% of women are seeking jobs with a higher salary, compared to 59% of men

Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka and Candice Braithwaite took part in the 2017 march. (Getty Images)
Anna Whitehouse AKA Mother Pukka and Candice Braithwaite took part in the 2017 march. (Getty Images)

Who's leading the protest? Organised by Pregnant Then Screwed, the charity Joeli Brearley founded in 2015 after she was fired via voicemail two days after she informed her employers she was pregnant with her first child.

“Mothers from all over the UK have come together because enough is enough,” Brearley said of the protest.

“We want urgent progress on women’s rights. It’s the 21st Century, yet 54,000 mothers are being pushed out of the workforce every year for simply daring to procreate. We have the second most expensive childcare in the OECD, the third worst ranking maternity benefit and the worst ranking paternity benefit in Europe. Data from the ONS shows that women of childbearing age are dropping like flies from the workforce. The childcare sector is in a mess; thousands of nurseries have collapsed this year alone. We have had enough.”

The protest is attracting support from afar. Celebrities joining the march include; Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, actor Bronagh Waugh, and TV presenters Ashley James and Kate Quilton. MP’s will also be attending the march, including Stella Creasy and Munira Wilson.

Watch: Duchess of Sussex has insisted that helping working mothers with childcare is "imperative" for business

What is the government saying? During new PM Rishi Sunak's 2022 campaign, according to Vogue sources said he “recognises that women are still shouldering a disproportionate burden of family life, so will look again at childcare and make sure public services are family friendly”.

The government does already provide some childcare funding for eligible families, for instance, up to 30 hours per week of free childcare for three and four-year-olds in England during term time, though many parents are only entitled to 15 hours per week, due to the salary threshold.

Read more: Childcare is costing UK parents over two-thirds of their salaries

Presenter Helen Skelton also took part in the 2017 March. (Getty Images)
Presenter Helen Skelton also took part in the 2017 March. (Getty Images)

What is The Motherhood Penalty? The term “motherhood penalty” refers to the disadvantages women face in their careers after having children.

Pregnant Then Screwed data has revealed the harsh reality that mothers are currently facing including extortionate childcare costs, poor financial support for new parents, and a lack of good quality part time and flexible work. A recent survey revealed that 31% of new parents will not be able to afford to have any more children, and 48% of pregnant mothers will have to cut their maternity leave short due to financial hardship.

Has March Of The Mummies Happened Before? It has. The first March of the Mummies took place on Tuesday October 31 2017 at midday in six cities across the UK and one city in California.

The demonstration demanded recognition, respect and action for working mums and dads and included attendees Helen Skelton (TV presenter), Jess Phillips MP, Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka, Susie Verrill, and Candice Braithwaite.

The protest also saw support from Keira Knightley, Stacey Solomon, Angela Raynor MP, Clive Lewis MP, and Beverly Turner.

How can I get involved this year? The marches will take place simultaneously in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Belfast, Cardiff, Exeter, Norwich, Bristol, Newcastle and Birmingham.

March Of The Mummies takes place at 11am on October 29. Register your interest at pregnantthenscrewed.com