Barriers remain for parents returning to work

Released on: 28 November 2014

New research from NCT has found finance and childcare to be the main concerns of new parents when making the decision to return to work.

The majority (77%) of new mums say household finance was their main concern when deciding to return to work, according to new research from NCT. 

Over two thirds (68%) of mothers said the quality of childcare was a very important factor when deciding whether to return to work, while 51% said childcare cost was a key influence. 

Most of the new mums surveyed (80%) were returning to work. But over half (54%) said that they struggled with the decision as they did not want to leave their child. 

The research, which is part of a two year study of first-time parents, also found that new mums and dads were more likely to return to work if their job offered flexible working. However, a third of new mothers (35%) and almost half of new fathers (47%) reported their employer did not offer flexible working hours. 

Around a quarter of men (23%) took less than their two weeks statutory paternity leave and only a small minority (11%) took more than two weeks leave to spend time with their new baby.  

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser, NCT, said:

“The new law on Shared Parental Leave will help many new parents but our research shows that this is still a really difficult time for them. 

“It’s scandalous that so many dads are still missing out on paternity leave to bond with their new baby. 

“On top of this parents are worried about the quality and cost of childcare and lots of them still don’t have access to flexible working to help them juggle earning a living and looking after their new family.

“The Government needs to listen to what new mums and dads are telling them and show that its promises to support family friendly working aren’t just hollow words.”

Employee Relations Minister, Jo Swinson, said:

“As a new parent having recently returned to work myself, I particularly welcome the research from NCT exploring new parents’ experience of returning to work - it makes a valuable contribution to the debate. The Government is committed to making sure workplaces are fair and reflect modern society, helping to stamp out the notion that starting or supporting a family has to mean the end of your working career. 

“We have worked hard to deliver a range of family friendly measures to let parents get on with making their own decisions about how they manage work and family life. All employees now have the right to request flexible working and the Government is introducing Tax Free Childcare and shared parental leave from 2015.”

Other key statistics: 

Over a quarter (28%) of new mothers surveyed were working part-time compared to only 4% of new fathers.

There was a four-fold increase (from 7% to 28%) in the number of women in part-time employment since they became mothers. 

Women were two and a half times more likely to report that their employers offered part-time working hours compared to men (70% vs 28%)

23% of men are taking less than their two weeks statutory paternity leave and only a small minority (11%) took more than two weeks away from work

Around half of new mothers were left with mixed feelings about their decision to return to work. A quarter felt ready to return, and a quarter felt compromised, expressing only concerns but no anticipated benefits 

Around half of new dads saw themselves primarily as an economic provider, incorporating fatherhood into their bread-winner role. A third were negative about balancing work and family demands. And around one in six described having a balanced life, where they had a breadwinning role that also enabled them to provide regular care for their child. 

About a quarter of the men surveyed felt that employers should do more to help, including offering opportunities for flexible working arrangements and subsidised or tax-exempt childcare schemes  

About the survey:

The findings from this report are taken from NCT First 1,000 Days longitudinal study. First-time mothers (866) and fathers (296) completed an online questionnaire when their baby was on average eight months old. Parents from all major groups, across region, gender, age, education, ethnicity and sexual orientation are represented in the study. A more detailed explanation of the methodology can be found in the full report.