With benefits decreasing there has never been more pressure for single parents to return to work. But inflexible employment is making the return a difficult one
For single parents it can be a tough choice to make, lessening the amount of time they spend with their children to return to work. With no money to pay for childcare they need to be available every spare second of the day to look after their offspring. In an attempt to address the problem, the charity Gingerbread has produced ‘The only way is up?’, a report unpacking the employment aspirations of single parents and the things they need to enable them to return to work.
According to the report only 59% of single parents are currently in work. For those that are in work, more than two-thirds are forced to take lower skilled positions that offer reduced wages and security compared to other jobs. However Gingerbread’s report highlights the fact that these figures aren’t down to a lack of ambition or willingness – of those who aren’t currently in work, 53% intend to be in a year and nearly three-quarters intend to within three.
So what are the blocks preventing single parents returning to work? Far and away the largest issue was the rigidity of working hours. Identifying qualities their ideal job would need to have, 38% of single parents felt their job would require emergency time off to deal with crises that might require their attention. Part-time hours and flexible hours were each highly valued by a third of respondents. Finally 28% identified that they would need term-time contracts to take into account increased childcare needs during school holidays.
At a time when additional financial support is so hard to come by, it is hardly surprising that flexible working is so essential for single parents – particularly when you take into account that more than one in ten single parents care for a child with a disability. But there are other things that are important for a parent, aside from fitting their hours around other responsibilities. Out of all survey respondents, 29% stated that having a line manager who understood their needs as a parent was vital to their work.
When the economic picture is so unstable it seems foolish to neglect such a valuable resource pool, especially given the role technology is playing in increasing workplace flexibility.