Half of working mums feel trapped in their job because of inadequate childcare, survey finds

Access to wraparound care improves women’s pay and career progression, but many are ‘running themselves ragged’ fitting their jobs around school hours

Nearly half of mothers feel trapped in their current roles because of the poor availability of childcare, a study has found.

A poll of 2,000 UK mothers, commissioned by Koru Kids, has found 45 per cent feel that a lack of before and after school care, also known as ‘wraparound care’, is preventing them from being promoted in their role.

A similar percentage (45 per cent) said they were currently working below their experience and pay grade to fit work around school hours, while one in five (20 per cent) mothers that lacked access to wraparound care said they needed to work fewer hours as a result.

In contrast, 93 per cent of mothers who had access to wraparound care said it had positively impacted their future career progression; 79 per cent said they were working at their pay grade or above; and 91 per cent of said it has allowed them to focus on work and further their careers.

However, one in 10 schools do not offer any before or after school care, with 17 per cent of mothers saying they would like access to more than is available. And where wraparound care was available, 12 per cent of parents said they couldn’t afford to access it, while 13 per cent couldn’t afford as much as they would like.

Rachel Carrell, founder and CEO of Koru Kids, said that while it was commonly assumed that childcare problems end when children start school, for many parents things actually get worse.

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“Parents, especially mums, are running themselves ragged trying to fit their jobs around school hours, unable to rely on the wraparound care that they need,” said Carrell.

“If the government is committed to rebuilding our economy post Covid, it’s critical that includes enabling more women to progress out of lower-paid jobs and reach their true potential, and to look after their emotional wellbeing.”

The poll found that for more than half (56 per cent) of mothers, a lack of childcare was affecting their mental health, with a quarter (25 per cent) admitting to feeling anxious and 22 per cent saying they felt fatigued.

Koru Kids has launched a petition urging the government to follow through on its manifesto commitment to invest £1bn into childcare.

The research adds to concerns raised earlier this year that working parents would struggle to find enough childcare this summer, with many already exhausting all their holiday allowances to homeschool their children earlier on in the pandemic.

The poll of 36,000 working mothers with primary school-aged children, conducted by the TUC and Mother Pukka in July, found almost two-thirds (63 per cent) said they did not have sufficient childcare, increasing to three-quarters (76 per cent) among single mums.

It also found nearly one in five (18 per cent) had already used all their annual leave allowance in order to home school children during previous lockdowns, while a similar proportion (20 per cent) said they did not have their usual network of friends and family to support them with childcare.

At the time, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said working parents were relying on flexible working arrangements “more than ever” to cope with the extra childcare demands created by the pandemic.