Nurseries suffer as flexible working rights enable mothers look after their own children

Almost a quarter of nursery places are now unfilled as a result of more flexible parenting rights which enable mothers to care for their young children, according to research.

A report published by market analyst Laing and Buisson (L&G) found there were 160,000 nursery vacancies last year, or 22.5% of the total space available. That equates to nearly double the 11% vacancy rate in 2002.

Moreover, it found that only 7% of children in day care are less than one year old.

According to the Times newspaper, the trend is expected to continue as mothers take advantage of their right to a year’s maternity leave. It said that at least one million parents have asked to work part-time since that right was introduced four years ago.

Susan Anderson, director of human resources policy at the CBI, believes the introduction of flexible working hours had contributed to the trend. She said: “There are certainly far more choices for women now. Previously you were either at home full-time or at work. Women can now have longer periods off when their child is first born.”

Philip Blackburn, author of the report, said: “Following particularly weak demand growth last year, there is a clear danger that future market expansion will see more and more businesses becoming financially unviable. Long-term demand trends which have driven the market in the past, such as birth trends for mothers in their early 30s, and workforce participation of women with children of nursery age, are also now having a lesser impact, and in some cases starting to reverse.”

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