Working parents and the need for accessible careers advice

Working parents need easier access to careers advice so they can balance work and family life, according to a new report.

Words work life balance and family on table collected with wooden cubes


Working parents are among the key groups who will benefit from calls to guarantee that all citizens can access to careers advice – the key recommendation of a major report into employment advice.

The recommendation is part of the Open Door Policy: Why the new government should introduce an Employment Advice Guarantee report, published by think tank Demos and supported by Phoenix Insights this week. It calls for the introduction of an ‘Employment Advice Guarantee’ as an underlying design principle for the new national jobs and careers service promised in Labour’s manifesto.

As a first step it calls on the Government to create a ‘digital front door’ which should be to make it as easy as possible for people in England to access careers advice and employment support. It can signpost people to existing services, programmes and organisations.

The report notes that the UK is the only nation in the G7 whose working-age employment rate remains lower than before the Covid pandemic. In part this is due to high rates of economic inactivity among younger and older workers, largely related to health issues.  But working parents are one of the main groups the report singles out as they struggle to find work that makes it easier to balance their caring responsibilities.

A Demos poll of 4,000 people, published to coincide with the launch of the report, found that one in three people (36%) want to access careers and employment advice, but that just one in seven (13%) have used a public service to get advice in the last two years.  Demos research has also found that up to 2 million people out of work who want to get a job are missing out on advice and support: a ‘back to work support gap’.

Working parents

Among the three targets groups it thinks could benefit from policy support are working parents, the vast majority of whom are mums.

It found working parents are particularly interested in accessing advice and support about: the types of jobs available in their local area, acquiring new work-related skills, training or qualifications, job progression and work/life balance.

The most common barriers they faced related to childcare and flexible working.

One mum who was looking for a new job, said she would be looking for flexible hours or a part-time role, commenting: “I actually gave up my job after my maternity ended because they weren’t being flexible with me. They didn’t offer me part-time hours or reduced days. And we had recently got a new manager and then that obviously changed the dynamic a lot. She was new and she wasn’t willing to compromise or anything like that, just wanted me to be doing the same as what I was, same hours. […] I thought it best off me just stepping back and spending time with my baby and then I will be looking in the next few months to go back to a completely new job. And then I think it’s just obviously somewhere where I probably could get part-time or reduced days.”

Parents were keen to get advice online as this was more convenient for them. This need for more support and advice is clear from the emails gets and is in part why was set up – to provide flexible work opportunities, but also to foreground how different parents are managing the whole work life challenge.

The other two groups Demos singles out are people looking for good work, many of whom have health conditions, and those who are open to change, but cautious, the majority of whom are men.

The report concludes: “The UK’s labour market has struggled since the pandemic; we can no longer afford to ignore the millions of people who want advice but can’t currently access it. By implementing [our] recommendations, the new government can close the ‘employment advice gap’ and ‘back to work support gap’ identified in this report. In turn, this will help grow employment, increase productivity and make an important contribution to achieving the government’s mission to boost economic growth.”

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