An associate dentist tells us why returning to work after maternity leave is challenging without official key workers status.
My son turned six months and was just beginning to recognise faces when lockdown occurred. After that point, he would only see my face for months and eventually become scared of strangers. This is just one of the ways that the pandemic affected our lives.
The struggle to find childcare
When I had my little one, I didn’t think childcare would ever be an issue for us. I work as an associate dentist in a practice in Rotherham and my husband is a doctor for the NHS. His family live close by and had always offered to help out with looking after my son once I returned to work.
However, that all changed with the outbreak of Coronavirus. Social distancing restrictions meant that family was no longer an option. Neither, it seems, were childminders.
I then discovered that nursery places in my area are really limited. It’s impossible to get a place at short notice and the only nurseries that have availability are too far away to be practical.
Why are dentists excluded from the Government’s list?
“Despite having a letter which states my key worker status, I was not given priority for childcare because dentists are not on the Government list.”
Despite having a letter which states my key worker status, I was not given priority for childcare because dentists are not on the Government list. The letter itself counted for very little.
At the same time, my son became increasingly scared of strangers and anxious when I wasn’t there. I was worried that this was the wrong time to introduce him to a brand new environment and new carers.
For any new mum, returning to work and leaving your child can already be a cause for anxiety. Under the current circumstances it feels even worse.
We decided that I would return to work one day per week and my husband would extend his shifts so he could have that day off for childcare.
I feel incredibly lucky to have these options. My practice has been so understanding and flexible, however, I worry about colleagues in similar circumstances who have not had equivalent support. They have been unable to return to work and have lost out.
And patients will lose out too. Nearly half of the dental workforce is now female. If a high percentage of those dentists are not supported to help them juggle their work and childcare commitments, we will end up with a skewed and unrepresentative dental workforce. Let alone fewer dentists out there.
I found out that the BDA was lobbying the Government to include dentists as keyworkers on their list. When I followed the campaign and saw that 40% of dentists are struggling to access childcare, I wanted to share my story. We are key workers and we must be acknowledged as such in every official capacity.
Dentists need more help from Government, financially, practically and emotionally. We cannot continue to be the forgotten health carers.