U.K.: Child Care Costs Inhibit Parental Employment, Study Finds

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By Rick Vollmar

Sept. 22—The cost of child care in the U.K. is preventing “millions” of parents from working, according to a Sept. 10 release on a new study by the Family and Childcare Trust and Parental Choice.

According to the study, over 4.4 million parents—a third of all parents with dependent children—are living in households where one or both parents are not working but in half the cases would like to. Child care can cost 25 percent of parents' income, according to the study, more than in any other country in the EU except Switzerland, and almost a quarter (23 percent) of unemployed British mothers give child care issues as the main reason they are unable to enter the job market.

Despite the government’s attempts to help families with their child care costs through tax credits and vouchers, there continues to be a strong relationship between the costs of child care and levels of parental employment, according to the study. Put differently, there is lower parental employment in areas where child care costs are higher.

The availability of child care, as well as its cost, is also a problem for working parents. Only 43 percent of local authorities in England and 18 percent in Wales report having enough child care for working parents.

“Without investment, the child care system will not be able to cope with the increased demand, and families will continue to be denied the opportunity to rejoin the workforce or take on extra hours of work,” according to Julia Margo, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust.

Chief executive and founder of Parental Choice Sarah-Jane Butler added that getting parents back into the workplace should not be left to government alone.

“The onus must be on businesses to put in place practices such as compressed hours working, home-working and flexible start/finish times,” Butler said. “Achieving high levels of parental employment is vital. Households where both parents work are much less likely to live in poverty. In addition, parents who work contribute to the nation’s economy, whilst businesses need to have access to the best possible talent and a workforce who can afford to work.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The press release is available at http://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/childcare-and-work-parents-missing-labour-market#overlay-context=press-office, the full report at http://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/sites/default/files/files/Childcare%20%20Work-%20missing%20parents%20from%20labour%20market%20report%202015.pdf#overlay-context=childcare-and-work-parents-missing-labour-market.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.