Companies are being urged to increase support for parents who are grappling with the cost of childcare.
Government figures revealed a rise in the percentage of working mothers and fathers of children aged up to four years old who are finding it difficult or very difficult to meet their childcare costs, from around one in four (24%) in 2021 to one in three (32%) last year.
The latest Childcare and early years survey of parents for 2022, which was funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and managed by Ipsos, also revealed a decline in the percentage of women with children up to the age of 14 who said they have reliable childcare to help the, get to work, from 42% in 2021 to 38% in 2022.
Jo Bristow, people development and career transition consultant at The Connor Consultancy, highlighted a clear downward trend highlighted by the report in the proportion of mothers who said having childcare that fitted with their working hours helped them to work: 23% in 2022, a fall from 27% in 2021 and 31% in 2018.
She said: “The move to hybrid working patterns is likely to have been a key driver behind this trend. Working mothers’ having more flexibility around where and when they work has lessened the burden of finding childcare that matches their working schedules.
“Companies should take note of this and stop trying to impose a blanket back-to-office policy when it doesn’t make sense for everyone. Many of the parents we work with complain about being forced to return to the office just because it is their company policy and that the additional hours of commute each day prevent them from being able to drop off and pick up their children or spend quality time with them.”
Bristow also emphasised an upward trend in the proportion of mothers working full time. In 2010, 25% of all mothers were working full-time, but by 2022 this had almost doubled to 41%.
She added: “This potentially means there is more pressure on working mums to juggle things between work and home. For companies, this means considering providing specific support to parents, especially those that are about to return to work following parental leave.”
Coaching programmes that help new parents adapt to the realities of working again would be hugely beneficial to both parents and companies in that sense, according to Bristow.
Meanwhile, a new study by household finance app Nous.co also called for more help for parents after discovering that one in three are having to cut down on outings and activities this summer because they simply can’t afford it.
Its research of more than 2,000 mothers and fathers found that families with two children are having to spend £2,500 more for childcare and entertainment during the summer holidays.
Commenting on the findings, Greg Marsh, CEO and founder of Nous.co, said: “Working parents are dealing with high food prices, energy bills and mortgage payments.
“Whereas in previous years they may have had the spare cash to spend on their kids during the summer break, nowadays every penny is likely to be spoken for. The next few weeks are going to be tough for a lot of parents.
“Employers need to do all they can. They can look at being flexible with working hours and working from home and also try to ease the financial burden with extra benefits for their employees.”