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Wake Up Call: Parents Walking Out Through Lack of Flexible Work

UK parents are leaving work due to the lack of flexible working opportunities available to them, according to a new survey for Family Friendly Working. The cost of childcare is also forcing parents to stay at home. Woman at desk

The survey reveals that just over a third (34.6%) of parents who had left work after having children had done so because of lack of flexible work opportunities. Three in 10 (30.7%) cite the cost of childcare as a key reason to quit.

The Employment Act 2002 introduced legislation designed to help working parents. Since April 2003 parents with young and  disabled children have had the right to request flexible work. This right to request was extended in 2009 to anyone with parental responsibility for a child aged 16 or under or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance. People can ask to:

  •  change the hours they work;

  • change the times they work; or

  • work from home (for all or part of the week)

A working mumDirector of Family Friendly Working Antonia Chitty says, “This survey indicates that parents are not getting the flexible work that they need. More work is needed to see whether parents are unclear about their rights, whether bosses are saying no, or whether the flexible work available just isn’t flexible enough. The current provision of funding for 2.5-3 hours pre school per day can be nigh on impossible to fit in with most employment: the Government needs to look at the way this is delivered and increase the flexibility of ways that parents can use the funding.”

Parents completing the survey commented:

“My boss was being very demanding, insisting I would get no special treatment and that I had to be in the office from at least 9am until 6pm. This was not an option with a three month old baby so I didn't return.”

“My daughter was about to start infant school. There was no way I could shorten my hours enough to be there for her before & after school (especially as she was only doing 5 morning a week initially, and I was then working 3 days a week).”

“Working and so many school holidays makes it difficult, especially as a single parent.”

Further results

The survey also found that around one in 10 parents (11.5%) are forced to quit because of lack of childcare. A similar proportion (10.7%) left work because having children changed their priorities.


1.     Antonia Chitty’s Family Friendly Working blog has been providing news and information for parents interested in flexible working since 2007. The blog is relaunched this month with a new look and easier navigation. Read it at  www.familyfriendlyworking.co.uk

2.     Antonia Chitty will be speaking at : “Supporting Family Friendly Working: Implementing New Reform and Promoting Flexible Employment” on 23rd February.

3.     Antonia Chitty has run her own PR business since the birth of her daughter in 2002. She took advantage of being on maternity leave with her son in 2006 to write her first book, and the Family Friendly Working book (White Ladder press £9.99) followed soon after. Antonia was voted the Mumpreneur Conference “Inspirational Business Mum of the Year 2009”. She is now working on her 10th book. Antonia is now mum to three and lives on the Sussex coast. For more about Antonia’s work go to www.antoniachitty.co.uk

4.     Antonia is the author of The Mumpreneur Guide which was released on 1st September 2009 and is available from www.themumpreneurguide.co.uk, Amazon and all good bookshops.

5.     Survey Details. 214 people were surveyed between 15th October and 15th December 2009. Of those, 130 had left work after having children.

6.     There are an estimated 167,353 self-employed mums working from home in the UK



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