According to its report, Untapped talent, Single parents and in-work progression – the national picture, the majority (70%) of single parents in the UK are in work but are more likely to be low paid and less likely to progress out of low pay compared with other groups, including parents in couples.
Forty-one per cent of single parents were found to be ‘stuck in low pay’ nationally, compared with 33% of the UK working-age population.
The report also found that part-time work and a lack of flexibility linked to caring responsibilities were clear barriers to in-work progression.
Thirty per cent of single mothers are in part-time work, compared to 25% of mothers in couples.
The need for the government to reduce the cost of childcare in order to facilitate progression in work was highlighted by nearly all single parents interviewed, with most deeming the price to be too high.
One single parent with a preschool-aged child (below four years old) said: “I couldn’t have gone to work because I couldn’t afford to pay that upfront…who has £1,300 as a single parent just laying there?”
These barriers to working full time or even at all are reported to be much more likely to be experienced by single parents, compared with other parents.
Laura Dewar, policy officer at Gingerbread and author of the report, said: “Across the country record numbers of single parents are in work but too many are still trapped in low-paid jobs, unable to progress and struggling with financial hardship.
“Both employers and the government have a valuable role to play in addressing the barriers to decent flexible work for single parents, ensuring that single parents have equal opportunities to progress.”
The report concluded that single parents’ attitudes and motivations towards progression at work are shaped by a wide range of factors including financial pressure and family lives.
Dewar told HR magazine that HR professionals could play a valuable role in supporting single parents to thrive and progress at work.
“If HR were to assist in opening up jobs at all levels, with part-time hours, offering flexibility within roles such as opportunities to occasionally work from home, then single parents would not have as many work barriers,” said Dewar.
Gingerbread’s report reviewed the academic literature examining work trajectories and evaluating interventions in this area and analysed two years of quantitative data (eight data sets) from the government’s Labour Force Survey.
The charity also undertook qualitative interviews with 14 working single parents, with a diverse range of family circumstances.