Last weekend saw thousands march through London to support the TUC’s call for “a new deal for working people”, meaning jobs with decent conditions that provide a living wage. The march highlighted insecure work – zero hours and bogus self employment – as well as low pay. A report earlier in the week from the charity 4in10 on young parents in London called on employers to commit to the Living Wage, make advertising flexible working jobs the norm, consider offering all workers entitlement to basic employment rights, guarantee all young parents on zero-hour contracts a guaranteed fixed hour contract after three months and introduce minimum notification periods for shifts.
As well as highlighting the need for quality jobs with career progression and employment rights, it says there is a huge mismatch between insecure work and flexible childcare. This has a knock-on impact on maternal employment. Employers acknowledge that childcare is one of the biggest issues facing parents. It is not just the cost of childcare, though, but availability of the kind of childcare that fits around the way many people are working. The Taylor review of modern working practices recommends that people in insecure work should be paid extra in recognition of the additional challenges they face as well as given basic employment rights which might help with the cost issue, but another issue is benefits entitlement when wages are insecure. Universal Credit relies on a baseline monthly income which many self-employed people in the gig economy, whose income tends to be irregular, cannot meet.
The summer holidays are difficult for many parents. Every year there is the same debate about shortening the holidays. Some employers are trying to help through offering greater flexible working over the six weeks, where possible. Employers like Kellogg’s operate reduced hours over the summer. For those in insecure employment the summer holiday challenge is compounded by a lack of affordable options.
Childcare in the UK is treated as something for each individual family to sort out, but it is a much bigger issue than that and needs bigger, bolder solutions.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.