Home News & eventsNews Supporting working families in the next Parliament

Supporting working families in the next Parliament

Published: 25 Apr 2017

There are 11 million working mothers and fathers in the UK, making up more than a third of the workforce. Ensuring this group of people reaches its economic potential is vital to the success of the UK economy in the next Parliament, and beyond.

But work isn’t currently working for families or for the economy:

  • 47% of parents think that over the last two years it has become financially more difficult to raise a family[1].
  • 46% of people in the UK want to work flexibly but currently only 8.7% of jobs are advertised flexibly[2].
  • Eight out of ten mothers and seven out of ten fathers would assess their childcare needs before taking a new job or promotion, limiting career progression and costing the economy billions in under-utilised skills[3]. The estimated annual costs of underutilising women’s skills alone is estimated to be between 15 and 23 billion pounds[4].
  • 47% off fathers agree they would like to downshift into a less stressful job. This runs the risk of creating a ‘fatherhood penalty’ – whereby men move into lower paid and lower quality work simply because they have become fathers.

The way we design, organise and advertise work in the UK restricts many with family responsibilities from being economically active in the first place; causes many others to downshift or drop out of the labour market entirely, and is a barrier to returning to work. The evidence for women is well known, but now we see similar patterns of compromise and disengagement appearing among younger fathers.  As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, these patterns must begin to be reversed.

We have therefore come together to call for these policies to be included in the political party manifestos prior to the General Election on 8 June 2017. We are calling for:

Meaningful flexibility and job security in the labour market. Flexible and well-designed jobs are crucial to ensuring that UK employers get the best out of their workforce and of ensuring that people achieve their full potential. We need:

  • Jobs designed and recruited flexibly as the norm rather than the exception – for government employees and for those contracting with the government.
  • A partnership approach between government and employers to increase flexibly designed jobs, using the Happy to Talk Flexible Working recruitment logo and strapline developed by a government working group[5].
  • A level playing field on parental rights between those classified as ‘workers’, those classified as ‘employees’ and those classified as ‘self-employed’. This would protect and support parents and carers in insecure work, removing some incentives for employers to exploit their staff and simplifying the complicated employment status landscape for employers and employees.


Better support for fathers in the workplace. This is crucial to improving equality at work and to reducing the UK’s persistent gender pay gap, which has no place in a modern, prosperous, inclusive economy. We need:

  • A properly paid period of independent leave that makes time away from work to spend with new children a realistic option for more fathers.
  • Parental and paternity leave rights from day one in a new job.


More support for working mothers and fathers of disabled children. Too many parents give up work at the point of their child’s diagnosis out of necessity, then move into long-term unemployment, with all its associated economic and social costs. Nine out of ten parents of disabled children currently not in work would like to return to paid work. Four out of ten have been out of work for at least six years[6]. We need:

  • A statutory right to adjustment leave, allowing parents and carers to make arrangements to deal with a new family situation or diagnosis, without leaving the labour market.


Proper employment protection for new and expectant mothers. 54,000 new and expectant mothers a year are treated so badly at work that they give up their jobs[7]. These women must have an effective means of enforcing their rights, and for rogue employers there must be an effective deterrent. We need:

  • The abolition of unfair employment tribunal fees which have led to pregnancy and maternity discrimination claims falling by 40%, sex discrimination claims falling by 70% and a rising numbers of employers willing to flout the law.


Every family to be able to access childcare that means they are better off working. Too many parents are frozen out of work because they can’t find childcare that they can afford – a part time nursery place for an under 2 year old costs over £6,000 per year and only half of local authorities report enough childcare for working parents in their local area, with even more acute shortages for disabled children and parents who don’t work the typical 9-5[8]. We need:

  • Central and local government to work together to make sure there is enough childcare available for every family that needs it.
  • A simple funding system for childcare that makes sure that parents only pay what they can afford for childcare and are always better off working once they have paid for childcare.

About the Families and Work Group

The Families and Work Group is an informal coalition of charities and trade unions who work together to collaboratively develop policy thinking and policy responses around families and work.  Members supporting this briefing are:​




[1] Working Families and Bright Horizons Modern Families Index, 2017

[2] Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Timewise How flexible hiring could improve business performance and living standards, 2016

[3] Working Families and Bright Horizons Modern Families Index, 2017

[4] Department of Work and Pensions Flexible Working: working for families, working for business A report by the Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce, 2010

[5] The strapline was developed for the DWP by a private sector employer working group chaired by Working Families

[6] Working Families Off Balance, 2015

[7] Equality and Human Rights Commission Pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination and disadvantage: summary of key findings, 2015

[8] Family and Childcare Trust’s Childcare Survey, 2017