Working parents are at risk of poor financial and mental wellbeing after thousands have reported that childcare policies are leaving them financially crippled. 

In a mass survey conducted by various parenting and campaign groups, the vast majority of working parents (97 per cent) felt childcare was too expensive.

A similar number (96 per cent) did not feel adequately supported by the Government regarding the cost and availability of childcare, leaving many to face payments that are more expensive than their rent or mortgage.

To cover these expenses, many working parents (40 per cent) report they are taking on longer hours or completing more shift work, risking burnout and causing employees to spend less time with their families.

This has also led many to change their working patterns after having children. The vast majority of respondents (94 per cent) stated that childcare costs were a factor in the decision to alter their traditional working hours.

Working mothers were disproportionately impacted by this problem of which two-thirds (66 per cent) reduced their working hours after having a child compared to around a quarter of men (26 per cent).

Career progression of women in the workplace has also been significantly affected.

Over four in five (82 per cent) felt they would have attained more seniority or earned more in their job if they did not have childcare considerations and almost half (46 per cent) have not since applied for a promotion, that they would have otherwise tried to attain, after having a child.

As such, working parents have reported various solutions to help make childcare costs more affordable:

  • Ensuring subsidised childcare starts from the end of paid maternity leave
  • Implementing at least three months of ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ parental leave for fathers, paid at at least minimum wage level
  • Large employers providing subsidised childcare
  • Tax-funded subsidised childcare covering the full working day, for all pre-school children

Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts said:

We’ve known for a long time that UK childcare is causing huge problems for families and mothers but, even so, we were surprised by how stark these results are. The burden of childcare costs falls heavily on the shoulders of those who can least afford it, and it’s shameful to see that families are going without essential food or falling into debt to meet nursery bills.

Across the piece, single parents, those from Black backgrounds and younger parents are all struggling even more than the average parent – and, as always, mothers are paying the price much more than fathers are, both literally and figuratively. Parents have shown that they are ready for a radical shake-up. Now it’s time for the Government to listen and invest in childcare as the essential infrastructure that it is.

Felicia Willow, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, added:

Our government cannot drop the ball on this – it’s clear that a lack of access to childcare is stopping women both going to work and progressing at work.


*This survey questioned 20,046 parents in the UK with at least one child aged 18 or under, between July 20 and August 31 2021. The survey was written and distributed in partnership with Pregnant Then Screwed, the TUC, the Fawcett Society, the Women’s Budget Group, Gingerbread, Working Families, the Fatherhood Institute and Maternity Action, with further distribution assistance from Music Football Fatherhood, Mother Pukka, Tova Leigh, Black Mums Upfront, The Young Women’s Trust, and Cathy Reay (That Single Mum).