Are you attracting all the available talent pools out there?
  • Report shows that while 70% of single parents are in work, they are often trapped in low paid roles.
  • Many are employed below their skill level and experience challenges around childcare and inflexible working practices.
  • Employers can benefit from this under-utilised talent pool by introducing roles mutually beneficial to their operations and to
    the employee.
The Challenges – where is the money to attend work?

Gingerbread, a single-parent-family charity, reported this year that while 70% of the UK’s 1.8 million single parents are in work, they are often trapped in low paid, insecure jobs – even when their skills qualify them to work in better roles. Sandhya Iyer from The HR Dept (Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells) highlights the benefits that employers can reap, by helping single parents overcome their challenges in the workplace.

It is not difficult to see the challenge faced by many single parents, 90% of whom are women, attempting to pursue a career whilst faced with exorbitant and unrealistic childcare. This hurdle holds back many single parents from the workforce, when they want to work. There is also the requirement for flexibility to accommodate school pick-ups and school term holidays.

Higher numbers of single parents were faced with furlough and eventually job losses and permanent reduction in hours. This has affected not just their finances but also future job security, and has placed them and their children at greater risk of poverty.

One business owner said, ‘She is brilliant. Even our clients have told us that she is an asset to the business. She would like to work additional hours, as we would for her. But sadly, she is holding back on any progression plans, because she does not have the necessary childcare arrangements in place to support more days at work’.

With childcare costs being so high, and most state schools not offering after school cover, any support in this area would be attractive to single parents, who want to remain in employment and progress in their careers. In a chicken and egg scenario, one hurdle is that some parents are simply unable to pay for childcare costs upfront, before wages are received. 90 per cent of childcare providers charge an upfront cost of approximately £1,500 per month.

Some win-win solutions, which won’t break the bank – Childcare loan deposit scheme

The Gingerbread charity has worked in partnership with one employer to develop a childcare interest free loan deposit scheme similar to a season ticket loan –something which some small business owners have shown openness to adopting, for their own staff. This means you help your employee to commit to more hours atwork whilst their increased childcare costs are supported through an interest free loan recovery scheme offered by you.

Is your HR framework fit for purpose?

In a tough recruitment market, small businesses, which can design roles with these unique challenges in mind, have the opportunity to attract and retain talent, thereby giving them a long-term edge in attracting and retaining staff, over larger corporates. Some options include job shares, or flexible work such as non-standard hours or remote/hybrid work.

Granted, flexible or remote working may not be the best option for certain sectors, such as hospitality or care – however a disciplined approach to regular performance management discussions coupled with meaningful benefits, and onthe-job training will play an important role in laying the framework for career progression and retention plans.

Unambiguous and open communication

Also do away with any ambiguity. Your maternity, paternity leave policies and other entitlements, like unpaid parental leave, should be promoted clearly to staff through your handbook, even if you are not able to extend them beyond the statutory minimums. Very often we come across staff, who assume that full pay  will continue during maternity or paternity leave, because ‘that seems to be the norm’ for ‘many other companies’.

A job advertisement should clearly communicate inclusive measures taken when advertising for any role. Research shows that many single parents are more likely to apply for jobs, if the employer has been open and transparent about the flexibility that they are able to offer. Where this is not possible due to purely operational needs, make it clear in your advert along with your business rationale.

It is no secret that many businesses have faced skills shortages for some time, and that it is a particularly a tough recruitment market at present. Creating roles, which do not leave talented job applicants feeling stifled by traditional workinghours of 9AM – 5PM, could just be the ticket for solving your own recruitment crunch.


For enquiries on this topic, please contact Sandhya Iyer from TheHR Dept, at sandhya.iyer@hrdept.co.uk or on 01732 622 209.