40% lower-income parents in debt to pay childcare

New research from Working Families reveals challenges that lower-income families in the UK face balancing work and caring responsibilities.

working families index 2023


The Working Families Index 2023 reveals many working parents on lower incomes are forced to go into debt, reduce their hours, or leave the workforce altogether due to problems affording and accessing childcare.

The report, co-authored by Pinsent Masons, also shows working parents on lower incomes take far less parental leave than the average parent and are often locked out of the flexible working arrangements they desperately need.

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said, “This research reveals what we suspected: that for many parents on lower incomes, work simply isn’t working.

“What can be done to support working parents on lower incomes? The solution starts with flexible working. It is clear that flexible working is no longer a nice-to-have; it is a must-have, particularly for those at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis. Not only can it enable parents and carers who would otherwise be locked out of the labour market to work; it also helps families better manage childcare, freeing up valuable income.”

Women and Black parents especially are feeling the brunt of this, with 58% and 60% respectively of those surveyed having to reduce their hours.

Working mothers on lower incomes take four months’ less maternity leave than the UK average, while working parents on lower incomes are twice as likely to have an informal flexible working request rejected than the average parent.

Co-head of Equality Law Pinsent Masons, Kate Dodd, said, “It’s clear that the UK’s approach to childcare and access to flexible, agile working requires a significant rethink and fresh perspective backed up by legislation which serves to enable every working family to succeed.

“Opportunities to work flexibly and to benefit from accessible childcare cannot be available only to families who are already financially comfortable. It’s vital that Government acts on the important and sobering issues demonstrated by the participants of this survey and takes steps to improve the experience of low income working families in the UK.”

Van Zyl added, “Alongside measures to increase the supply of high-quality, part-time and flexible jobs in the labour market, Working Families is also calling for affordable and accessible childcare; more inclusive, better-paid leave for new mothers and fathers; and greater job security and advance notice of schedules for shift workers. This will support parents on lower incomes to thrive at work and at home.”

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