New report shows childcare investment key to equal pay

Thursday 14 November 2019

New report shows childcare investment key to equal pay after years of cuts leave young mums locked out of work and going hungry

57% childcare

On Equal Pay Day, Young Women’s Trust calls on political parties to put major childcare investment at the heart of their manifestos as new research shows young mothers not only locked out of work and equal pay - but going hungry to afford scant and expensive support.

The charity said the UK could only significantly tackle the pay gap by investing in free year-round childcare from the end of parental leave, by offering 12 weeks of equal and paid for paternity leave on a “use it or lose it basis”, and by providing flexible schemes for those who work irregular hours. 

The very idea of equal pay is a distant dream for young women whose first concern is how to balance the most basic needs, said Young Women’s Trust CEO Sophie Walker.

Walker added:   "Today is the day we all talk about closing the pay gap. But our report reveals half of all working mums aged 18-30 skip meals at least once a week because they struggle to balance just getting to work against the cost, inflexibility and inaccessibility of childcare. We’re a long way off dealing with the basic problem of access to paid work, which is the foundation of access to equal pay.”

The CHILDCARE: WHAT YOUNG WOMAN WANT report draws on findings from focus groups held across the country and a Survation survey for Young Women’s Trust of UK mums aged 18-30.  It found: 

  • More than three in four of young mums (78 percent) said a lack of flexible and affordable childcare was a barrier to finding employment
  • 57 percent were unable to take up employment because of a lack of suitable childcare options 
  • One in three young mums was forced to leave a job because she could not afford childcare and more than half of those polled said they would work more hours if they could find flexible childcare at an affordable price
  • Two thirds of employed young mums are struggling or just about managing financially, rising to 82 percent of those who are not working because they cannot afford childcare
  • One in four working mums skip meals every day to make ends meet. Half of working mums are skipping meals at least once a week to provide for their children – rising to 64 percent among those on Universal Credit 

Said Walker: “If we are serious about ending poverty, driving economic growth and achieving sex and pay equality, then childcare must be treated as a fundamental part of the country’s infrastructure. Yet as our report shows, successive governments have failed young mums, especially those struggling to live on low or no pay.  It is scandalous that young women are having to skip meals to meet childcare costs and make ends meet. But it is also not surprising given that Britons pay for the most expensive childcare in Europe – an average of £127 per week or over £6,600 per year. Clearly, childcare has not been treated as a national priority.

“Society will value care when men do it as well as women – right now statistics show women lose three percent of pay for every child they have while fathers get a 21 percent pay bonus – and when everyone has a stake in it. Extended paid-for paternity leave on a 'use it or lose it' basis is key, as is state-funded free childcare so it's no longer assumed to be women's work.

“Any political party serious about winning women’s votes need to listen to them and invest in a childcare and parental leave system that is affordable, flexible and easy to use.”

The research also found that discrimination and inflexibility by employers are making the situation worse, with one in four mothers polled saying they had been discriminated against after disclosing they were pregnant, and 40 percent  saying they had been asked how being a mum affects their ability to work. One in three said requests to work flexible hours were turned down by their boss. 

Young Women’s Trust is calling on the next Government to put childcare reform and supporting parents at the heart of their legislative programme, including by:  

  • Extending free childcare to start at the end of paid parental leave at nine months and increasing the entitlement for free childcare so that it is available year round 
  • Changing the rules under Universal Credit so parents can choose to have childcare costs paid directly to the provider - so no parent has to pay upfront costs they can’t afford 
  • Allowing parents with irregular working hours to access a new out of hours childcare voucher scheme so they can take advantage of free childcare  
  • Extending eligibility for 30 hours free childcare to those in education and training, and consulting on the feasibility of extending eligibility to jobseekers to provide continuity and stability for children and parents 
  • Investing in publicising existing support including free childcare and tax-free childcare
  • Changing legislation to give all workers and employees the right to request flexible working from day one in a new job whilst requiring employers to advertise jobs as flexible or justify why they are not able to do so
  • Extending parental leave, including by increasing the current paternity leave allowance to 12 weeks at 90 percent pay on a “use it or lose it basis.”  

Notes to editors:    

  • On behalf of Young Women’s Trust, Survation carried out a poll of 520 mothers aged 18-30 between 13 and 20 March 2019. 
  • Five focus groups were also held in Newcastle, Hull, Leicester and London. 

Case Studies:  
Young mum of one, Sophia, 24, London:
“I was unable to take a job six months ago because the childcare option I needed for my three-year-old daughter was too expensive. It was the perfect job too as I would had qualified for a mortgage. I am now limited to remote working.   The rules are also skewed against young mums. The 30 hours of free childcare when a child turns three years old is only applicable if you have a full or near full-time job confirmed months before you actually need support. You can’t benefit from it otherwise. This is just one of many reasons why Childcare in the UK needs urgent reform.”

Case studies recounting meal skipping to afford childcare available by request. 

To request an interview with Young Women’s Trust CEO Sophie Walker, and for more information on Young Women’s Trust’s policy recommendations and surveys, please contact media officer Peter Simpson on at or on 020 7837 2019 or 0790 429 4372. 
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