New mums in most expensive childcare locations less likely to return to work

  • 21 October 2019

The study combines data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study of approximately 40,000 households in the UK, with data on childcare costs from Coram Family and Childcare, and analyses the choices of British women from the year before they have a baby to up to three years afterwards.

The research indicates that part-time working, family networks and other caring responsibilities are also key influences in women’s choices about work after having a baby, finding that:

  • Women working part-time are particularly hard hit by childcare prices, with those living in areas with high childcare prices less likely to return to work.
  • Women are more likely to return to work if they can use informal childcare, such as having grandparents care for their child. 74% of mothers who use informal childcare have returned to work, or started work, three years after having a baby, compared to only 47% who don’t use it.
  • Caring for other people, as well as their child, reduces the likelihood that new mothers will return to work.

The report highlights that supporting mothers who wish to remain in or return to the workplace increases family income, reduces the need for benefits and improves productivity by retaining women’s valuable skills. Coram Family and Childcare is calling for policy interventions to reduce the cost of childcare through free provision and support to help more women return to work, particularly at the point just after leave, when childcare is most expensive. It also calls on the government to do more to incentivise all employers to support parents to balance work and care.

Claire Harding, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “Too many parents in the UK are frozen out of work by the high cost of childcare, particularly in the first few years when the price is highest and there is no free childcare available. This means families face a drop in income and parents’ vital skills are lost to employers and the economy. Government must act to make sure all parents are better off working after paying for childcare.

“As the research shows, childcare prices particularly disadvantage women who want to work part-time or need to combine work with other caring responsibilities. Making childcare affordable and available to all women who want it would improve families’ wellbeing and give all women the option of remaining in the work force.”

Coram Family and Childcare provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Families in the Early Years, a parliamentary group that provides impartial, informed and progressive debate on the key early years issues facing parents and families across the UK. Claire Harding, Head of Coram Family and Childcare is discussing the findings of the research in an APPG meeting held today, 21 October. 

Find out more about the All Party Parliamentary Group on Families in the Early Years

Read the full research paper