London parents vote with their feet

Dec 05 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Only ten per cent of London working parents feel happy with their work-life balance, a new report has revealed. Juggling long hours, appalling transport and costly childcare in the capital is such a struggle that over a third say that the only way that they feel they can secure any level of work-life balance for themselves is to give up work, change jobs or reduce working hours.

Work & Parents' (W&P) Working and Caring in London Survey 2002, reveals that 92 per cent of parents feel that employers should be offering more practical support to help meet the demands of work and caring, while 62 per cent say that they work too many hours. A third of parents are also paying over £500 a month for childcare.

“Many parents have skills that are highly desirable for employers, yet expensive or inaccessible childcare, inflexible working arrangements and poor transport systems combine in driving skilled and qualified people out of the workforce,” said W&P’s head, Sarah Jackson.

The campaigning charity, along with the City of London Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership (ETDCP) is calling on employers, childcare providers and transport planners to take into account the problems faced by working parents in the London. In particular, employers should establish working parents groups to help them understand the needs of their employees.

Only six per cent of the 630 respondents in the poll wanted workplace childcare. Two-thirds said that would prefer childcare near to where they live or on their way to work, a factor that childcare planners should be taking into account.

Opening and closing times of nurseries should also be more flexible, the report argues, and transport planners should address the negative effects of transport unreliability and look at flexible ticket options. Almost a third of respondents were dissatisfied with their current childcare arrangements. A clear demand for afterschool clubs and playschemes came through as ways to improve this.

As one respondent said, “if my child’s nursery opened half an hour earlier and my employer let me start work half an hour later, it would make me so much happier”.

Eighty-six per cent of the sample had to take time off in the past year to care for a sick child. While respondents said that their employers were ‘helpful’ when this was necessary, a third said that employers could support them further by allowing more flexible ways of working – particularly working from home. There was also a lot of evidence that suggested that respondents were expected to make time up later.

London’s long hours culture, early starts, late working and long journey times has led more than half (53 per cent) to look for changes to their hours or adopt flexible working. Over a third (37 per cent) are also looking to leave their current employer and either change jobs, work closer to home or become self-employed

”We believe that the future development of London requires innovative and practical support to working parents…we hope that the recommendations we have drawn up with the City of London EYDCP will encourage employers and transport and childcare planners and providers to address this,” Sarah Jackson added.

A copy of the full report is available here.

Parents at Work is a campaigning charity, which provides information and support to working parents, and helps employers to reap the business benefits of work-life balance practice.