Single working parents should have the right to request flexible paid furlough from their employers during lockdown, Keir Starmer has said.
He said those who cannot work from home and have no partner to rely on must get an “immediate” to request a paid flexible furlough deal from their boss.
Amid a sharp rise in infections and deaths from coronavirus, Starmer also said government scientists should “in the next few hours” set out what further lockdown measures are needed.
The opposition leader suggested closing nurseries and cutting house viewings could help, but added “we need to see the science” behind new measures.
In the speech, setting out some of Labour’s ideas to help families during the pandemic, Starmer said both the planned £20 cut to Universal Credit and a hike in council tax should be scrapped.
He also said the evictions ban should be extended to ensure nobody is made homeless during the crisis.
Turning to how the furlough scheme worked for parents, he said: “Working parents have been left once again to juggle childcare and work.
“It’s hard on the kids, it’s hard on the school staff and it’s tough on every parent.
“For those who can work at home, it’s difficult.
“But for those parents who can’t work from home or don’t have a partner to share the load, it can mean the difference between keeping their job or looking after their family.
“So the government should go further to support working parents.
“By creating a legal, enforceable and immediate right for parents to request paid flexible furlough and by promoting that to all working parents to help them get through this lockdown.”
Key workers, including care staff, should be given a pay rise, he added.
Turning to new lockdown measures, Starmer said there should be daily Downing Street press conferences from the government.
Further lockdown curbs should be put in place “as soon as possible”, he said, after there were more than 50,000 new infections reported.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to hold a press conference at 5pm on Monday, when he will give more details on the vaccine rollout.
“We are in this extraordinary situation, if you like, where having got to at least as serious if not a more serious position than in March of last year, we have got lesser restrictions in place and we need those in place as soon as possible,” he said.
“I do think it’s time to hear from the scientists as to what else can be done and that should be in the next few hours,” he added.
Starmer was also asked repeatedly whether he had taken advice from Tony Blair, after it was revealed the former prime minister had met with Cabinet ministers.
The Labour leader said that he had, and said: “Tony Blair has done a lot of work on the vaccine and the pandemic, and I know he has been talking to the health secretary.
“My message to everybody is to step up and do what we can.
“We have all got a responsibility to ensure that that vaccine is delivered as quickly and as safely as possible.
“I think the more advice and support we can get from anyone, the better in this.”