Single parents could be locked out of work due to the impact of the pandemic, according to the Gingerbread charity.
A report published by the single parent charity today (19 May) found that single parents are more likely to have been furloughed (30%) than parents in couples (21%). They were also more likely to work in hard-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail – with 46% single parents in these roles compared to 26% of parents in couples.
Supporting employees with childcare
Gingerbread predicts that the end of furlough in September could lead to a disproportionate number of single parents being made redundant, and has urged the government to offer better support.
The impact of successive lockdowns has led many childcare settings to endure financial losses and some to close down, meaning single parents either have to find alternative childcare arrangements or pay higher fees.
Dropped income and little opportunity to save means single parents also struggle to pay upfront costs to secure childcare places, the report found.
Gingerbread wants the government to help single parents access affordable childcare, including infrastructure support for childcare providers to prevent them from closing.
The charity has also called for the government to change how childcare costs are met for those on low incomes, to cover childcare costs for parents who undertake training while out of work, and to provide “high quality, tailored employment” to single parents through Jobcentre Plus and its new back-to-work schemes.
A further recommendation is that the government progresses the Employment Bill to ensure employers advertise flexibly. Last week’s Queen’s Speech failed to give any indication of when this bill might appear, however.
Before the pandemic, nearly 70% of single parents were in work but many were still living in poverty, said Victoria Benson, chief executive of Gingerbread.
“When it comes to work, single parents are already in a precarious position and it’s clear that without concerted effort things are set to get worse,” she said.
“Single parents have much less flexibility than couple parents, limited access to quality jobs and significantly lower household incomes. The pandemic is widening the gulf and alarm bells are ringing loud and clear – the government must do more to support single parents to access work and to ensure work pays.
“If it doesn’t then we will see more children living in poverty and more single parent families suffering the disadvantage this brings.”
Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, agreed that there needed to be a greater focus on specialist employment support for single parents.
“We know that working from home has become normalised during the pandemic, which has helped some single parents. However, working from home isn’t the only flexibility that is needed to ensure single parents can work,” he said.
“The government has committed to ensure employers make jobs flexible by default – it must deliver on this commitment in its long-awaited Employment Bill. There is also a role for employers, there is no need for them to wait for legislation to review their flexible working policies.
“The report shows that where employers have offered truly flexible working it has helped their single parent employees to stay in their jobs and remain valuable members of the workforce. We know that improving staff retention helps businesses avoid the expenses associated with recruitment and saving on costs is ever more important as businesses get back on their feet.”