Firms must provide childcare beyond the ‘nine-to-five’

Employers
are being urged to rethink childcare provision as parents are working longer,
less-typical hours.

Two
new reports for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation argue that stronger action to
protect working parents from the growing pressures of the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week
society may be just as important as making childcare services available at
evenings and weekends.

The
reports suggest that helping parents working outside the normal ‘nine-to-five’
to balance their work and family lives requires new policies and services,
rather than simply persuading existing childcare providers to work longer hours
themselves.

A
study of the barriers preventing the expansion of existing childcare services
to cover non-typical hours identified just a few, innovative services that have
started to emerge. These included a community nanny scheme, weekend childcare
provision at a hospital and a childminding network to help police employees.

Researchers
at the Institute of Education’s Thomas Coram Research Unit (London University)
surveyed the 150 Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships in England.
They discovered that while there was near-unanimous agreement on the need to
develop childcare services outside normal working hours, fewer than a third had
yet taken any action.

The
second study, carried out by NatCen, the National Centre for Social Research,
used representative survey data on more than 10,000 families with children
under 15 years of age to examine the experiences of self-employed parents. This
showed that around one in four families have at least one self-employed parent.
Among these:


Almost half the mothers interviewed (47 per cent) had chosen self-employment
mainly for childcare reasons, compared with a small minority of fathers (6 per
cent).


Long working hours were widespread among self-employed fathers. Nearly six in
10 fathers (59 per cent) who employed other people worked more than 48 hours a
week, compared with 41 per cent of self-employed fathers who had no staff, and
28 per cent of fathers who were employed.


Self-employed couples were especially likely to work long, non-standard hours.
More than a third (35 per cent) worked a combined total of more than 90 hours a
week, compared with less than 15 per cent of other dual-earning couples.

www.jrf.org.uk

By Quentin Reade

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