A third of working parents are concerned their caring responsibilities will make them more vulnerable to redundancy when furlough ends, according to new research.
The new study for Working Families’ #FlexTheUK campaign, partnered by Wates Group, highlights concern from many parents about a backward slide to less flexible work, and a desire to keep the positive changes that the pandemic has brought for their family life.
The YouGov polling shows how mixed experiences have been over the course of more than 14 months of restrictions and lockdowns.
Most working parents felt supported by their employer to manage their childcare arrangements but one in five working parents (19%) say they did not get any support from their employer to manage the challenges of being a parent during the pandemic.
Middle class parents were far more likely to be given the chance to work flexibly and report the benefits of it on family life, the researchers claim. In contrast, working class parents were less likely to have access to flexible working arrangements and, even when they did, they were less positive about its impact on family life.
Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said: “Working parents have had a uniquely challenging time over the pandemic – juggling the demands of work with childcare and homeschooling. Lifting the final restrictions on our daily lives will of course be hugely welcome in so many ways, but this new research shows how critical it is employers manage that transition sensitively, make the wellbeing of their staff teams a priority, and support working parents to keep the gains to family life they have seen through the pandemic.
“We are seeing a very real concern that parents who have had caring responsibilities through the pandemic will be most vulnerable to redundancy when the furlough scheme ends. It highlights the precarious nature of work for many parents, and the need for better redundancy protections for people with caring responsibilities.
“This polling sends a strong message to employers that if they want to reach a more diverse talent pool, including from the 13 million working parents in the UK today, they need to be building flexible working into jobs from the start.”
Having been through a year of disruption and change to work and family life, it’s clear that many parents are keen to retain the positives that have come out of the pandemic when the final restrictions are lifted.
Half (50%) of parents are concerned that moving back to less flexible ways of working after the final restrictions are lifted will have a negative effect on family life – with more women than men expressing concern (53% v 47%).
Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, said: "This research highlights that childcare duties are putting a big strain on working parents, one that risks them being pushed out of the workforce entirely.
"Businesses need to recognise this issue quickly and find ways of offering the support working parents need. Indeed, according to a recent report, 46% of mothers have said that a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy.
"Organisations need to ease the pressure working mums feel about how their situation is being perceived by their managers.
"During this challenging time, it’s crucial we ensure decades of progress towards gender equality in the workplace is not reversed. This means getting management and executives – who often have unfair, unconscious biases – to recognise their own decision-making processes and make the necessary changes to support and help those that need us the most. We must not forget – in the current climate, these are the people we need the most.”