In today's budget, the Chancellor has announced that free childcare for working parents is to be expanded to give up to 30 hours a week to parents of children aged nine months to two years old. This is part of a government drive to encourage people back to work and help boost the economy.
Childcare costs in the UK are among the highest globally, and the rising cost of care has been a key driver in new parents not returning to full-time work. According to a survey of 27,000 parents, 62% said that childcare costs were the same or more than their rent or mortgage; this rises to 73% for single parents and parents who work full time.
This demonstrates that high childcare costs have driven new mothers towards lower-paid part-time jobs to avoid these rocketing costs. 43% of mums stated that the cost of childcare made them consider leaving their jobs, with 40% having to work fewer hours than they would like.
These changes, coupled with businesses embracing a more flexible post-Covid work environment, could go a long way to helping restore equity for women in the workplace and start to close the gender pay gap.
A study undertaken by the government-backed Behavioural Insights team showed that businesses offering more flexible working terms saw an increase of 16% in applications from women and 20% for more senior management roles.
In a labour short market, this encouraging news from the government, coupled with a fresh outlook on flexibility for working parents, could be just what is needed to help employers start to fill their backlog of jobs and continue to address the gender pay gap with more new mums encouraged back into full-time work and leadership roles.
We welcome the changes announced in today's budget and look forward to seeing the positive impact they will hopefully bring for the thousands of new parents looking to return to the workplace.
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