Voice of the Employee

A new report published by the Family and Childcare Trust, alongside Parental Choice, has revealed for the first time that the high cost of childcare is preventing millions of parents from working, with industries who rely on shift work being particularly hit.

Currently, over 4.4 million parents (34% of all parents with dependent children) are living in a household where one or both parents are not working, but this new report reveals that nearly half of these families want to find work or work more hours.

With parents in the UK now paying a quarter of their income on childcare costs, more than any other country in the EU except Switzerland, a significant 23% of British mothers who are not in paid employment now cite childcare issues as the main reason they are unable to enter the job market.

It is not only the price but the availability of childcare that is now seriously affecting parents’ ability work. Despite successive governments’ welcome attempt to help families with their childcare costs through schemes such as tax credits and childcare vouchers, the report found a strong relationship between the costs of childcare and the levels of parental employment.

To exacerbate the problem, only 43% of local authorities in England, and 18% in Wales, report that they have enough childcare for working parents. These figures fall to 14% and 0% respectively for parents who don’t work 9 to 5, a situation which could have a huge knock-on effect in industries such as health care where staff routinely work shifts.

With nursery prices revealed to be 32% higher in London, the situation in the capital has, not surprisingly, reached a critical level.

In Tower Hamlets for example just 31% of adults with dependent children lived in households where both parents worked, or were working single parents themselves. At the other end of the scale, this figure rises to 76% in South Gloucestershire, Rutland and Leicestershire.

With conclusive evidence that the UK workforce is being hit in areas of high childcare costs, it is now up to business to take steps to support working families and ensure that parents are not forced out of employment. As the Government moves forward with plans to tackle childcare costs and availability, the focus needs to be on how businesses can help working parents remain in work.

Julia Margo, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: “Without investment, the childcare system will not be able to cope with the increased demand, and families will continue to be denied the opportunity to re-join the workforce or take on extra hours of work. We want the government to use the £535 million worth of savings from the delay to the roll out of tax-free childcare to invest in flexible childcare for working parents.”

Sarah-Jane Butler, Chief Executive and founder of Parental Choice, added that getting parents back into the workplace should not be left to the Government alone: “The onus must be on businesses to put in place practices such as compressed hours working, home-working and flexible start/finish times. Achieving high levels of parental employment is vital. Households where both parents work are much less likely to live in poverty. In addition parents who work contribute to the nation’s economy, whilst businesses need to have access to the best possible talent and a workforce who can afford to work.”

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