Wake Up Call: Parents Walking Out Through Lack of Flexible Work

UK parents are leaving work due to the lack of flexible working opportunities available to them, according to a new survey for Family Friendly Working. The cost of childcare is also forcing parents to stay at home.

The survey reveals that just over a third (34.6%) of parents who had left work after having children had done so because of lack of flexible work opportunities. Three in 10 (30.7%) cite the cost of childcare as a key reason to quit.

The Employment Act 2002 introduced legislation designed to help working parents. Since April 2003 parents with young and disabled children have had the right to request flexible work. This right to request was extended in 2009 to anyone with parental responsibility for a child aged 16 or under or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance. People can ask to:

  • change the hours they work;
  • change the times they work; or
  • work from home (for all or part of the week).

Director of Family Friendly Working Antonia Chitty says, “This survey indicates that parents are not getting the flexible work that they need. More work is needed to see whether parents are unclear about their rights, whether bosses are saying no, or whether the flexible work available just isn’t flexible enough. The current provision of funding for 2.5-3hours pre school per day can be nigh on impossible to fit in with most employment: the Government needs to look at the way this is delivered and increase the flexibility of ways that parents can use the funding.”

Parents completing the survey commented:

“My boss was being very demanding, insisting I would get no special treatment and that I had to be in the office from at least 9am until 6pm. This was not an option with a three month old baby so I didn’t return.”

“My daughter was about to start infant school. There was no way I could shorten my hours enough to be there for her before & after school (especially as she was only doing 5 morning a week initially, and I was then working 3 days a week).”

“Working and so many school holidays makes it difficult, especially as a single parent.”

Further results

The survey also found that around one in 10 parents (11.5%) are forced to quit because of lack of childcare. A similar proportion (10.7%) left work because having children changed their priorities.

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