Half of working parents would consider leaving job for better flexibility, study finds

Poll also reveals a third are in roles below their skill level because of flexibility needs, as experts warn the rising cost of living is putting families in financial jeopardy

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More than half (55 per cent) of working parents in the UK would think about leaving their current role if they found another with better flexibility, a study has found. 

The research by Working Families and SF Recruitment, which polled 992 parents in August this year, found that only a third (31 per cent) would apply for a role that did not list flexible working options in the advert. 

The majority of both working parents (82 per cent) and unemployed parents (90 per cent), meanwhile, said they would apply for a job that listed flexible working options in the advert.

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Melissa Jamieson, chief executive of Timewise, said employers could attract more talent if they advertised their flexible options, as it is popular among all candidates – not just parents. 

“Flexible hiring is a critical attraction tool [and] employers need to shift their mindset to understand that flexible working is often a candidate’s first thought, not their last,” said Jamieson, adding that a better option would be to design roles that have flexibility so employers can tap into a “larger and more diverse” talent pool. 

The study found that flexibility was a top priority for two-thirds (66 per cent) of working parents, and almost a third (30 per cent) said they worked in roles below their skill level for greater flexibility.

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Flexibility is now a “must have”, and companies looking to stay competitive must think about the current economic situation and how to support working parents, said Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families. “With the current cost of living crisis putting so many families into financial jeopardy, offering flexible roles at the point of recruitment opens opportunities to those who have caring responsibilities but who desperately need additional income,” she said. 

The research came as another study from Business in the Community (BITC) found that weekly childcare for children under two cost some parents more than half of their take-home pay. The study found that nursery costs for children under two years old would cost 65 per cent (£274 per week) of the weekly median take-home pay for one adult.

The figures are a wake-up call, and place working parents, especially women, in a difficult position, said Katy Neep, gender equality campaign director at BITC. Employers “must look at pay as well as challenging their preconceptions about where, when and how work is done”, she added. 

Victoria Benson, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, highlighted that the cost of childcare was a “huge financial burden”, especially for single parents, and called on employers to offer roles that are “genuinely flexible”.

She urged all employers to “consider how they can make their workplaces more attractive and accessible to those parenting alone".

Meanwhile, charity Pregnant then Screwed confirmed it will be bringing attention to the issue with its ‘March of the Mummies’ protest, scheduled to take place at the end of this month. The demonstration aims to put pressure on the government to provide affordable childcare and flexible working.