TUC Urges for Better Quality Childcare to Support Working Parents

The TUC in their recent press release has urged the UK, stating, that “every child should have access to good childcare and early education”. This follows the publication of a recent Office of National Statistics(“ONS”) report that shows that locations with greater percentages of child poverty have lower levels of childcare access.

Continue reading to find out more about these statistics, the TUC’s response, and what might help to support working parents. Want to make a flexible working request but not sure how? Follow the link to read about the basics of making a flexible working request!

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The Issue of Restricted Childcare to Support Working Parents

The ONS has recently published startling new data showing the accessibility of childcare in various local neighbourhoods across the UK. Working with Ofsted, the data effectively shows how many out of 100 children up to seven years of age have access to childcare in any given local area within the country.

It considers the number of places offered by childminders and available at Ofsted-registered nurseries and similar group environments. However, it does not take into account the approximate 300,000 places typically available through schools.

Poor Quality Childcare Mostly in Low-Income Household Areas

The outcomes of the analyses demonstrated the considerable discrepancies between different geographical areas.

According to the data, more affluent parts of the UK (including Cambridge and St Albans) showed greater access to childcare, whilst those neighbourhoods which have restricted access to these childcare services generally had correspondingly low levels of disposable household income and, therefore, a higher number of children experiencing poverty. Whilst these statistics are only reflective of potential demand and supply, the figures are nevertheless suggestive.

The results of the ONS and Ofsted analyses also enable the consideration and comparison of childcare access and levels of income by local authority areas. 90% of local authority areas with higher levels of childcare access also tended to have higher than average disposable household incomes.

Another notable correlation revealed by the data related to women’s qualifications. The data shows that households containing children of up to four years old in areas with higher levels of childcare access were more likely also to contain women with higher education qualifications than those in areas with less access.

Women More Likely to Be Out of Work Due to Limited Childcare Access

The Trades Union Congress has released a statement relating to the new statistics, focusing on the importance of available childcare to support working parents.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of TUC, has expressed concern about the data findings, stating that all children should be entitled to childcare access and early education. He said: “Women shouldn’t have to give up or cut down paid work because they can’t find the right care for their children. […]”. He further adds that all families, irrespective of where they live, should have access to high-quality childcare. This is also imperative so that mums can go back to work, whenever they wish to.

According to a TUC analysis published last year, seven times more women than men are likely to be out of work due to the pressures of caring for their families. The data showed that around 1.46 million women were unable to work owing to childcare responsibilities, compared to 230,000 men. This data, too, caused the TUC to highlight the importance of the availability of free childcare for parents from the end of maternity leave through a child’s primary school years. This would enable working mums to continue in their previous jobs after having had children.

In response to this data, Mr Nowak commented that: “too many women take a financial hit from caring for the rest of their lives – and it is a key driver of the gender pay gap. […] We desperately need funded high-quality childcare for all families, free at the point of use, so women can stay in work once they have kids.”

How to Support Working Parents: Legislations and Employer Responsibility

The availability of accessible childcare is, of course, of vital importance for parents and guardians who are seeking to start or return to work or increase their working hours.

According to an earlier ONS study, women are more likely to be responsible for unpaid childcare (i.e. for looking after the children if alternative childcare is not available or affordable). This being the case, the accessibility of childcare in different geographical areas is of particular importance for actual or prospective working mums.

New flexible working legislation has helped to support working parents, enabling them to apply for flexible work arrangements to assist with juggling employment and childcare responsibilities. However, according to the TUC, 50% of working mums fail to be offered the flexibility which they have requested.

Support for working parents could be extended by requiring “every single job [to be] advertised with the possible flexible options stated”, Mr Nowak said. Removing the limit on how many times working parents are able to apply for flexible work arrangements in any twelve-month period will also be of massive help as children’s needs are unpredictable.

Another potential positive effect of such extensions to flexible working might be to increase the likelihood of men taking advantage of flexible work options, encouraging them to share more childcare responsibilities, and reducing the current pressure on working mums.