‘Important: Changes to fees and terms’. That was the heading of an email from my son’s nursery last week and I’m sure I wasn’t the only parent to feel panic at the thought of increased childcare costs.
It wasn’t long ago that nursery fees for under 3’s hit £60 per day at our nursery which is already very expensive so a further increase is not welcome news for many parents.
Anyone reading this that knows me is probably wondering what I’m complaining about given that I’m in a senior role and therefore in a position to afford it. I’m also now in receipt of the Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer which means my son is entitled to 30 hours free childcare a week so this price increase won’t have a major impact on me but that is far from the point.
The reason I am writing this piece is to raise awareness of the high costs of childcare and how that affects women in particular.
Earlier this year, Mumsnet carried out a survey of 20,000 people across the UK. One third of participants said their childcare payments were bigger than their rent or mortgage and this rises to 47% of those with a black ethnic background, 42% of those receiving Universal Credit, 40% of the under-30s, 38% of single parents, and 38% of those who work full time.
At the same time, research shows that half of working mothers do not receive the flexibility they request at work. This study of 13,000 women found that many were dissuaded from asking for flexible working because they feared a negative reaction from their employer.
And yet, while I had been previously working reduced hours and was proposing an increase to full-time with a flexible compressed week, my employer still didn’t want to support it. Thankfully, I had an indisputable case but many are not so fortunate which puts them in an impossible situation and forces many women into low-paid, part-time roles. The patriarchal society that we live in has done a great job of creating this idea that part-time work is a choice when for many, it’s the only option in a family trying to balance work and care.
When we were considering a second child, the cost of childcare for two seemed completely impossible and that’s with two full-time working parents.
#EqualPayDay last week was a stark reminder of gender inequality in the workplace. The causes of this include stereotyping, occupational segregation and care. Having access to affordable childcare, allowing mums to participate fully in the labour market, would help to tackle the gender pay gap so I am pleased that the Welsh Government is currently consulting on childcare for under 3’s.
Mums are role models for the next generation and the choices they make set an example. I’m very clear that the issues that underpin the gender pay gap are systemic and can be resolved if we are serious about gender equality.
Have you been affected by the high cost of childcare? Did you have a flexible working request refused? Share your experience in the comments below.