Many single parents are being forced to take on junior jobs that offer more flexible hours and proximity to home, according to a report from single parent charity Gingerbread.
Lack of flexible jobs, and unaffordable and unavailable childcare are the biggest barriers to single parents seeking work that matches their skills, says the charity.
Single parents taking part in the research into work aspirations put practicalities such as having a job close to their child’s school, with part-time or flexible hours and an understanding line-manager, far above considerations of the role, salary or how the job suits their skills or experience when job-hunting. Two thirds of single parents said their ideal job would offer them part-time or flexible hours to fit with their caring responsibilities and two fifths (38%) would ideally have a job that allowed for emergency time off.
Gingerbread says statistics show 59% of all single parents are already in work and 75% of those who aren’t, aim to be within the next three years. Most of the remainder are either long-term disabled themselves, or caring for a child with disabilities, says the charity. Their research shows that women are driven to work by the need to provide financially for their family and because they enjoy working and want to be positive role models to their children.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “The real picture of single parents today is a million miles away from the ‘scrounging’ stereotype. Single parents want to work, provide for their family and be a role model to their children, but they are being held back by a system that isn’t fit for purpose.
“Affordable, modern childcare options and more flexible jobs could transform the lives of millions of working families across the UK, not just single parents, and offer real benefits for employers and our economy. Even small changes can make a big difference, so that single parents can pursue the jobs that would make the most of their skills and provide a better life for their families.”
Gingerbread also conducted single parent focus groups which showed some single parents are actively choosing to have less responsibility at work because they felt this would give them greater job flexibility and offer them more time with their families, while others feel strongly that they shouldn’t have to ‘dumb down’ their careers simply because they need different working hours.
The report, The only way is up? The employment aspirations of single parents, also interviewed employers across the retail, technology and public sectors to discover how their recruitment, retention and development policies could help single parents in the workplace. Employers outlined the benefits of taking a more flexible approach in order to recruit and retain the staff their businesses need and the steps they are taking to support staff: from home working to core hours and shift swaps.
Fiona Weir added: “Some employers already offer a great package of options to help single parents balance work and raising their kids, but we need all employers to follow these positive examples”.