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The need for Flexible Working in the face of a Childcare Crisis

The need for flexible working in the face of a childcare crisis

The challenges facing all workers – and their employers, for that matter – at the moment are well documented. Businesses and the people within them are at the mercy of soaring costs from all angles, while wages are largely failing to keep up. Services throughout the country are under increased pressure, and one such service that is the source of a growing headache for HR is childcare.

Nearly 400 nurseries have closed in England alone since August 2020 according education regulator Ofsted, down from 27,610. According to the Early Years Alliance, 86% of early years providers say that the funding they receive for three- and four-year-olds doesn’t cover the cost of delivering those places.

This is all leaving parents worse off as their options for childcare decrease, all while the associated costs increase, making what was already one of the most costly childcare systems in the world, even more restrictive.

Why should HR be concerned?

Recent analysis from Business in the Community shows nursery places for children under the age of two costs parents in England 65% of their salary, and this figure is an even higher 71% for the east of England and inner London. For many parents this is becoming too big a burden, making it seem not worthwhile to work full time. As such, the numbers of people leaving work or reducing to part-time hours is increasing. And the last thing the employment market needs right now is a decrease in talent.

As well as this, given that childcare responsibilities have a disproportionate impact on women, there will be ramifications when it comes to diversity and inclusion, too. As it stands, nearly three-quarters of part-time workers are women, many of whom feel they simply have no choice but to work limited hours. With no sign of relief on the horizon when it comes to the cost of living, many more women may follow in these shoes. In the past year alone, the number of women out of work to look after a family has risen by 5%.

Many businesses are placing increased emphasis on how they approach diversity and inclusion, which makes the childcare crisis a key obstacle for them. Could flexible working be the answer for HR?

Flexible working to combat the Childcare Crisis

Leaving a career entirely is the last resort. According to the annual motherhood survey from, two-thirds of working mothers feel their career ‘stalled’ after having children, and 58% were looking to move jobs, increase their hours or do an additional job to supplement their income. The reality is if employers want to keep these women in the workplace, they’re going to have to explore different ways to cater for their needs.

Flexible working is a key factor to consider. The annual motherhood survey revealed that flexible working was a ‘dealbreaker’ for three out of four mothers, with 86% saying they would look at the flexible working policy of a company before applying for any role with them. It is clear then, that facilitating working parents to carry out their job responsibilities in a way which allows them to navigate their childcare commitments could be the key to prevent them restricting their talent pool even further.

Some good news to report is that HR departments appear intent on addressing this. In Natural HR’s  annual report, where we surveyed the HR community on the priorities, challenges and trends facing them in 2023, two-thirds of HR professionals reported that they were supporting flexible working initiatives. In fact, this was the most common scheme being promoted by HR, apart from wellbeing and mental health initiatives.

If you want to get the best out of your employees – whatever their working patterns – then you can truly unlock your people’s potential with HR software. Discover for yourself in a free demo from Natural HR here.

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