The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) report, based on the responses of more than 1,100 first-time parents of eight-month-old babies, reveals that for over two-thirds (68 per cent) of mothers the quality of childcare was a very important factor when deciding whether to go back to work, while for 51 per cent it was childcare costs.
For 77 per cent of the mothers surveyed, household finances were a deciding factor in the decision to return to work.
The report 'Working it Out', part of a two-year longitudinal study of first-time parents, found that 80 per cent of women were planning to go back to work.
Fewer lone mothers were planning on returning to employment, because they said the financial incentive is low, particularly once childcare costs are taken into account.
New mothers were more likely to return to work if their employer offered opportunities for flexible working.
Women were two-and-a half times more likely to report that their employer offered part-time hours compared to men.
When asked about paternity leave, around a quarter of the new fathers surveyed revealed that they took less than the statutory two weeks, while a small minority (11 per cent) took more than the two weeks of leave to spend with their baby.
More than 20 per cent of fathers felt that employers should do more to help, including offering opportunities for flexible working arrangements and subsidised or tax-exempt childcare schemes.
The report concludes by making a number of recommendations, including:
- Giving parents financial support for high-quality and affordable childcare as soon as they return to work to fill the current gap in subsidised childcare;
- for employers to increase the availability of part-time and flexible roles for both men and women at all levels;
- job advertisements to make it clear that flexible working arrangements are available for men and women.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the NCT, said, ‘It’s scandalous that so many dads are still missing out on paternity leave to bond with their new baby.
‘On top of this parents are worried about the quality and cost of childcare and lots of them still don’t have access to flexible working to help them juggle earning a living and looking after their new family.
‘The Government needs to listen to what new mothers and fathers are telling them and show that its promises to support family friendly working aren’t just hollow words.’
Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs, said, ‘As a new parent having recently returned to work myself, I particularly welcome the research from NCT exploring new parents’ experience of returning to work. The Government is committed to making sure workplaces are fair and reflect modern society, helping to stamp out the notion that starting or supporting a family has to mean the end of your working career.
‘We have worked hard to deliver a range of family friendly measures to let parents get on with making their own decisions about how they manage work and family life. All employees now have the right to request flexible working and the Government is introducing Tax Free Childcare and shared parental leave from 2015.'
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said, ‘In light of the report, 4Children is renewing its call to all political parties to place universal childcare at the heart of their offer to families at the next election.
‘Where possible there should be an increase in the availability of flexible working for new parents. As the NCT points out, the current gender divide is stark. It’s clear that we need a change of culture in the workforce generally, and around new fathers in particular.’