May 18, 2023
A new poll from Working Families in partnership with law firm Pinsent Masons, sets out to highlight the challenges that lower-income parents in the UK face as they balance work and caring for their children. The Working Families Index 2023: Spotlight on lower-income families reveals that many working parents on lower incomes are forced to go into debt, reduce their hours, or leave their jobs altogether due to problems affording and accessing childcare. The report also claims that working mothers on lower incomes take far less maternity leave than the UK average, and that working parents on lower incomes are often locked out of the flexible arrangements they desperately need to stay in work and earn vital income whilst balancing their childcare responsibilities.
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. No parent should have to reduce their hours, leave the workforce altogether, or go into debt to pay for childcare. No parent should have to miss valuable time with their new baby because statutory levels of pay aren’t enough to survive on. And no parent should be prevented from accessing flexible working just because they don’t work at a desk in a knowledge-based industry.
“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.
“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.”
Based on a nationally representative survey of over 2,000 working parents with a total household income of £50,000 or less, the research suggests that:
- 4 in 10 working parents on lower incomes have gone into debt to pay for childcare.
- Over half of working parents on lower incomes (51 percent) have had to reduce their working hours to manage childcare needs. Women and Black parents especially are feeling the brunt of this, with 58 percent and 60 percent respectively of those we surveyed having to reduce their hours.
- 1 in 5 working parents on lower incomes have had to quit a job to manage childcare needs.
- Working mothers on lower incomes take four months’ less maternity leave than the UK average.
- Working parents on lower incomes are twice as likely to have an informal flexible working request rejected than the average parent.
- Parents on lower incomes have significantly less access to hybrid or remote working arrangements than parents on higher incomes. Instead, lower-income parents tend to work reduced-hours or term-time arrangements.
- Having access to flexible working supports parents on lower incomes. Those who had successfully requested flexible working were a third less likely to have to quit their job to manage childcare, 25 percent less likely to fall into debt, and half as likely to have had their mental health negatively impacted due to the difficulty accessing childcare than those who had had their request rejected.