UK childcare crisis threatens post-pandemic recovery

The UK’s broken childcare system is putting working parents, who make up nearly half of the workforce, at risk.

by Ari Last
Last Updated: 13 Oct 2021

A recent groundbreaking survey of 20,000 parents, stimulating Parliament debate and public outcry, found 1 in 3 parents working in full-time employment pay more for childcare than their rent or mortgage.

The UK has the third highest childcare costs globally, with the situation most dire in the capital where nursery provision costs for infants have risen over seven times faster than London wages. Throughout the pandemic parents, most commonly women, without access to reliable childcare have been forced to step back from full-time employment.

The loss of a working parent to inadequate childcare costs businesses thousands per employee in onboarding, training, and recruitment costs, and loss of productivity. Now more than ever, a business case can be made for targeted interventions that tackle employee challenges of balancing work expectations and parenting obligations.

Employer-subsidised childcare provisions can have a life-changing impact on the careers and mental health of working parents, women and single parents especially. Without intervention from employers, childcare costs will remain a prohibitive barrier to working mums reentering the labour market and businesses looking to recruit a more diverse pool of talent.

Childcare is an impactful investment, not just for parents but for businesses at risk of losing valuable staff to caregiving obligations. Research shows working parents greatly value job stability and are more loyal to the companies they work for. Almost ninety percent of parents would be more loyal to employers that offer childcare support. With employee attitudes around work-life balance changing rapidly, the introduction of family-support can send a powerful signal to talent recruits and have a direct impact on employee satisfaction and productivity.

As organisations transition to hybrid working, some businesses are already factoring in childcare as a potential barrier to on-site work. By providing access to home-based, on-demand childcare, these employers are making it easier for working parents to accommodate common eventualities such as needing to schedule a last-minute meeting or focus on an urgent deadline. The opportunity costs of otherwise mandating that employees “return to office” without factoring in the unique challenges of working parents presents too much of a risk to their hybrid working plan.

Entering into a post-pandemic phase it’s businesses that will address the UK’s national childcare crisis, not out of charitable intent, but due to sheer business need.

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