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Quarter of mothers do extra work to cover childcare cost, survey finds

77% of mothers with children under the age of five have seen childcare costs rise in the last year

A quarter of mothers with children under the age of five have taken on extra work to cover the increased cost of childcare, a survey by Indeed Flex has found.

A further quarter indicated they have taken up temporary work, and one in five claimed that temping is the only employment they can fit around their childcare responsibilities.

The platform for finding temporary work surveyed 2,000 women and found that more than three quarters of mothers with children aged under five (77%) have seen childcare costs rise over the past 12 months.

The survey also showed that nearly a third (31%) of mums with young kids now spend more than 40% of their salary on professional childcare.

This comes as the government is set to start offering 15 hours of free childcare per week to parents with children under the age of five from 1 April 2024.

By September 2025 this support is predicted to increase to 30 hours of childcare per week for all parents with children under the age of five.

Around a third (32%) of women who took part in the survey agreed that the government support is not being implemented quickly enough. More than a quarter (29%) said that professional childcare would still be too expensive, even with the government support.

Clara Wilcox, return to work and career coach for parents, commented that while employers can help support working mothers, policy needs to change.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Whilst there is a lot employers can do for flexible working, agile working and properly paying their staff, this conversation needs to be wider.

Read more: Working mothers are being pushed to breaking point: employers need to step up

“We have to stop making the financial cost of childcare a mother-only problem. Those that have partners, or co-parent, need to be factored into the cost. As long as it is considered a ‘mother’ issue it won’t be taken seriously as what it really is – an infrastructure issue.”

“Policies need to allow for proper funding on a national level.”

Read more: Free childcare chaos leaves working parents unsupported

A survey of 6,000 working parents by Pregnant then Screwed (January 2024) found that only one in 10 parents had been able to access the government-funded childcare due to technical difficulties with their access codes.

Jo Waterworth, head of employer services at charity Working Families, encouraged employers to offer their employees childcare support.

She told HR magazine: “We advocate for employers to integrate childcare support into their benefits packages, which will positively impact on their employees’ wellbeing, as well as the organisation’s recruitment and retention efforts.

“Employers can also alleviate childcare costs through subsidies, holiday club provisions or nursery deposit loans. 

“Additionally, ensuring all employees receive a Living Wage and offering flexible working arrangements can significantly aid working families.”

Lindsey Doe, chief product officer at benefits provider Vivup, noted other benefits employers could offer working parents to support them with childcare.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Employers can and must support working parents, showing that they are valued; family-friendly benefits help. 

“These range from providing a budget for back-up family care, which gives working parents choices when they’re in a tight spot.

“Employee Assistance Programmes enable employees to seek support and advice, not least financial, and lifestyle benefits can offer up to £2000 each year in retail savings.”

A survey of 3,000 working parents by childcare provider Bright Horizons found that 74% of women bear the mental load for family life compared to 48% of men. The research was published last month (February 2024).

The additional load has a knock-on effect on working lives: almost twice as many women as men reported working flexibly to meet childcare responsibilities and feeling less able to progress in their careers because of this.

Another study by the charity Pregnant then Screwed (March 2024) showed that 76% of mothers who pay for childcare say it no longer makes financial sense for them to work, while 32% said they had to rely on some form of debt to cover their childcare bill.