Held Back: Single parents and in-work progression in London

Key findings

41%

of single parents struggle to afford childcare, compared with 14% of parents in couples.

Often

single parents work below their skill level for the flexibility they need.

Lack of

flexibility forces single parents to work fixed hours.

Drawing on a review of the existing evidence as well as new quantitative and qualitative research, this report summarises what is known about in-work progression for single parents in London.

It outlines why in-work progression is a pertinent issue for single parents in the capital and explores their attitudes, aspirations, experiences and outcomes in relation to progression. Further, it examines what can be done in terms of workplace and policy interventions to improve single parents’ outcomes in this area. Drawing on a UK-wide project examining similar issues (Clery et al, forthcoming 2019), it seeks to identify where the experiences of single parents in the capital are distinct and where they reflect the national picture. It concludes by setting out a series of recommendations for government, Jobcentre Plus District Managers in London, the GLA and employers, to improve progression outcomes and support for single parents. These organisations could play a valuable role in supporting single parents to move into better work in the capital.

Key findings

  1. Single parents are more likely to work part-time to balance their caring responsibilities, so often work below their skill level for the flexibility they need.
  2. A lack of affordable childcare prevents many single parents from seeking better paid roles and blocks in-work progression. 41% struggle to avoid childcare compared with 14% of parents in couples.
  3. A lack of flexibility forces single parents to work fixed hours, preventing them from working overtime or socialising with colleagues.
  4. Being consistently in work helps people to escape low pay, while single parents are more likely to have 'work gaps'.
  5. Single mothers on average have fewer educational qualifications than mothers in couples. However, even where they have the same qualifications they are less likely to be employed in a senior job role than a mother in a couple.

Key recommendations

  1. The government should introduce a right for employees to request part-time or flexible working from their first day in a job, and offer better training for work coaches to help single parents progress in work.
  2. The government should make childcare more affordable for single parents by reviewing the childcare cap, introducing a childcare deposit scheme, and reviewing the 30 hour childcare offer to make it compatible with the realities of working life.
  3. The government need to target career support/advice for single parents at key stages of their children's lives.
  4. For employers to use their appraisal scheme and coaching to encourage single parents to progress.
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Held Back: Single parents and in-work progression in London

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