The world of work can drag along a lot more problems than nailing an interview and making sure you’re getting paid enough so you can move out from your parent’s house. Sometimes, just sometimes, other things are thrown into the mix that make pursuing your career that bit harder. Like being a parent. And seeing as we’ve found out parents are quitting their jobs because they can’t afford childcare costs, it’s a pretty big deal.
You might be looking over your shoulder wondering why we’re chatting to you about having kids, but a study recently showed that 2.9 out of every 100 girls between 15 and 19 are giving birth each year, and in 2014, 48,000 babies were born to young mums. So with rising childcare costs, and a fierce demand for jobs, does this force them to give up on their career altogether? Nanny Share found that the rising childcare costs are forcing parents to quit their jobs, and sometimes, getting a job finds them worse off.
A survey conducted by My Family Care found over 2.2 million women and men are not working in order to look after their family – 60% are looking to return to work but don’t know how to. 68% of working mothers are looking for employers who offer flexible working solutions. So how do they overcome these difficulties?
Struggles of a working parent
Lucy Robson, 24, agrees that finding a job with childcare costs on the rise has made her question whether it’s worth working. “I have found it hard to attempt to find work. I struggled to find a job that was worth working for, when you factor in the cost of paying for childcare and getting no help from the government. It ended up working out that I would be worse off working, than I was by not working!”
“The main difficulty I think parents, especially young parents face, is not having had the chance to get a step up on the career ladder. Once you’ve had children, it’s a lot harder to do so due to commitments outside of work, meaning a lack of flexibility when it comes to shifts and not being able to stay later. They even might be unable to attend courses due to having no overnight childcare.”
Lucy adds that the main factor for her to go back to work would definitely be cheaper childcare: “I would love to build a career for myself and have more money to spend on my child (and myself!). The ability to have flexible shifts would be helpful, although this would not be possible in some job roles!”
Vicky Charles, a single parent and now a freelance writer, also discussed with us the struggles of finding work, but found that rising childcare costs was only one of the issues she faced. “I think my biggest struggle is what to do if it doesn’t all go to plan – if my daughter is ill or nursery is closed, I can’t work. When I first went back to work in an office, I was off more than I was there, because my daughter caught everything going in her first few weeks at nursery.
“My boss was very good about it, but I was very lucky with him, and I was worried that I quickly used up all of my holiday entitlement, and had to start taking unpaid leave. When you already only work part time, unpaid leave is a nightmare!”
Overcoming the difficulties
Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, an organisation working to support parents into employment, says that a lack of support from employers often forces women to give up on their careers: “It shouldn’t be like this. Businesses are missing a trick by failing to support their caring workforce – by offering flexible working and a more understanding ethos through the company, businesses can create a happier and more engaged workforce that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the business in the long run.”
Being a parent or having a career doesn’t have to be a choice with one decision. As with any difficulties you may face when trying to get a job, there are ways around it, people that want to help you, and organisations that provide support. In June 2014, employees who had been at their job for over six months were granted the right to request flexible working. Flexible work options -such as part time working, working from home, changes to start/finish times, job sharing- allows you to balance having both a job, and being a parent.
“I can’t afford childcare”
Thousands of working parents with young children are struggling to meet the cost of childcare. Fact. So organisations out there are trying to find a way around it. Nanny Share is one of the most popular and cost-effective ways of childcare, and a less expensive option than a nursery. You simply type in your postcode and find a match with a local family to share childcare costs.
Alternatively, Tinies is a leading childcare agency in the UK and offers Nanny Screening services to give cost-effective help to finding a suitable nanny for your child.
“I can’t find suitable childcare.”
Vicky says that looking around for the right care for your child if you are going back to work is really important. “I would say talk to as many nurseries and child minders as possible, in order to find the right fit. Some nurseries have a very flexible arrangement; others are more structured. It should be more about how comfortable you feel leaving your child there, than what you can afford. And always apply for tax credits, even if your nosey neighbour tells you that you won’t be entitled! It’s a pain in the bum to do, but you might be lucky and find you’re entitled to some help!”
A nationwide emergency childcare service (www.emergencychildcare.co.uk) finds a nanny, mother’s help or place at a local nursery in as little as an hour’s notice.
“The 9-5 hours don’t suit me”
Flexible working and being part of a family friendly company is key to help you strike a balance between being a parent, and having a job. Paul Williams of CANparent, a childcare advice network, said exploring exploring your employee objectives could be key in working out your hours. “Are there things that need doing every day? Is the role customer facing? Is it a task or project-based? Does it need to be carried out in the office? Job designs should be periodically reassessed to assess their compatibility with a flexible working model.”
The UK workplace culture no longer remains fixed on a 9am-5pm working model, and employers continue to consider flexible working hours. “Flexible working training for all staff and line managers should look at the process of the statutory working request and analyse the sequence of events, from communication to implementation, performance management and review,” added Paul.
“I need to be at home.”
Sometimes shorter working hours still won’t suffice, if you really need to be at home. Paul advises you to look into technology that can enable you to work from home: “Technology is the enabler of remote and flexible working. Mobile devices, remote network access and/or cloud services, desktop visualisation, video conferencing can allow colleagues to work in unison despite being physically separated.”
Working from home is a part of the flexible working scheme that is now so widely used in office culture. You have the right to ask your employer for flexibility, and they should give your request a serious consideration, and have a good business reason if they decide not to agree.
Going it alone?
With the stress of ‘going back to work’, not finding suitable hours, and unable to afford childcare – is going self-employed the only option? My Family Care found that 39% of mothers wanted help with a franchise, or start-business ideas. They incorporated practical and personal solutions for starting up your own business in their Work & Family Show by bringing together business leaders and employment experts.
Leah McGrath struggled to return to work after having her baby. She returned back to her role in HR to what planned to be a job-share, but ended up fitting her full-time job into part-time hours. “I was finding it such a struggle, commuting three hours, three days a week, and trying my best to be a good mum. I was getting ill all the time; whenever there was a virus going around, I would catch it as I was so run down and my little girl’s behaviour was becoming very challenging.
“After a while I realised there must be more to life and resigned. It was extremely scary but I am so pleased I did.” Leah set up her own business, training as a yoga teacher and running her own franchise, now achieving a healthy work-life balance.
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