Tag Archives: Working Parents

Childcare costs are becoming a luxury fewer can afford

6 Mar

Some nurseries in London cost more than the most expensive boarding schools in the UK, according to the Childcare Costs Survey 2013 from the Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting Institute.

The research found that a place at Britain’s most expensive nursery £42,000, which is 25% more than a place at a top public school – putting childcare from the ‘necessity’ into the ‘luxury’ category in terms of working parents’ budgets.

Even once a child is at school, the costs are still racking up. Parents are paying nearly £4,000 for two children to be looked after before and after the school day – which exceeds that costs of a typical family holiday to Florida.

On average, a full-time nursery place costs £11,000. But this costs 77% more in real terms than it did in 2003, but earnings have stayed the same. This adds to the dilemma of many working mothers: can they afford to go out to work when much of their earnings are eaten up by childcare?

The Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting say they believe that “major root and branch reforms are needed to create a childcare system that gives children the best start in life and that supports parents to work”.

Could more time be the secret to workplace happiness?

4 Oct

The beautiful weather may have prompted unseasonally sunny demeanours this week, but there’s no hiding the cloud of unhappiness that’s hanging over the UK’s workforce, according to two surveys that gauge the nation’s happiness.

The Happiness at Work Index from recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark reveals that just a third (36.5%) of workers are happy in their jobs. A quarter said they were “distinctly unhappy” – and levels of unhappiness have been falling this year. The company’s managing director Nicola Linkleter puts this down to “a lack of tangible job security, longer hours, increased financial strain at work and home, and reticence from senior management to invest in additional talent”, and says that workplace morale should be addressed as a business-critical issue.

The delicate balance between work and home is the subject of the second survey, from My Family Care. Its Working Parents & Carers Flexible Working Survey 2011 reveals that just 40% of the 40,000 respondents were happy or very happy with their work/life balance.

Interestingly, there is a correlation between flexible working and being happy with their work-life balance: two-thrids (64%) of people  who are ‘very happy’ with their working pattern say they are ‘really committed’ to their employer, compared with 23% in the ‘very unhappy’ category who feel similarly committed to their employer. Happiness links to productivity, say respondents. However, flexibility does not equal career progression, with 54% in the ‘very happy’ group concerned that that their promotion prospects may be hindered by working flexibly.

So, what’s the common denominator in all of this? There’s no magic cure to the unhappiness, but I agree with one of the conclusions reached by the My Family Care survey: that the underlying issue is the pressure caused by lack of time. Working parents have jobs, children, possibly elderly parents to take care of; so many “mandatory” elements to their lives. The survey adds: “So ways to save time and use it more productively will nearly always help; from the practical – working from home during rush hour and putting convenient childcare in place, to the developmental – training designed to help workload management and productivity for flexible working.”

Business groups slam gender pay audit proposals

9 Aug

Government moves to introduce pay audits to help stamp out gender pay inequality have been criticised by employers groups as flawed and potentially damaging to business.

The Consultation on Modern Workplaces outlined a number of proposals to make changes to employment law – including extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, and a new flexible system of parental leave where new mothers and fathers can share leave – which employers groups say would push up wage bills and hamper the economic recovery. But it’s the proposal on pay audits that has raised the biggest concerns.

The British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses have written a letter stressing their opposition to the enforcement of gender pay audits. Under the government’s proposals, if a company is found guilty at employment tribunal of gender pay discrimination – as well as paying compensation – it will have to carry out a pay audit to identify if the case was a one off, or it if is endemic within the business.

The business groups argue that pay audits are a waste of time, money and resources. Tim Thomas, head of employment affairs at EEF, said: “Employers will draw a line in the sand on plans for gender pay audits. They will do little to increase pay transparency in the private sector and are likely to have the opposite effect.”

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “If an organisation loses a gender pay case, under these proposals not only will they pay compensation to the claimant, and a possible fine to the Treasury, but they will also be forced to undergo a pay audit. The tribunal system is already chaotic, and this proposal will add further complexity and could encourage more weak and vexatious claims against employers.”

If statutory measures aren’t the answer, I wonder what is – especially when the gender pay gap between men and women working full time is still 15.5%.

Can we say no to our to-do lists?

7 Dec

Colour-controlled to-do lists can be extremely satisfying.

I laughed out loud at this summary of a new book for working parents, which is from the managing editor of Realsimple.com, Kristin van Ogtrop.

Whether you’re a parent or not, a skim through the list of ‘Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom’ in Kristin’s new book Just Let Me Lie Down gives some humorous food for thought. In her alphabetical list, I plumped for K and L as the pertinent points that help me organise my  life.

K is the ‘Kingdom of No, where you can say no without feeling guilty about it. Not always easy. Before you feel you have a right to enter this kingdom, you may feel you have to stand in the passport queue for some time, debating and berating yourself about the impact of saying no might have on someone – or perhaps saying no raises fears of your own abandonment and rejection. Either way, it can be difficult so say no and mean it.

L is for the List Paradox. This one is for the Control Queens who believe they can manage life when it’s in a list in front of them – and who, overwhelmed by the inability to complete every task on their to-do list, and the feeling of inadequacy that often results, will add tasks to the list that they’ve already done.

I am unapologetically and openly guilty of L: using  brightly coloured pens to note and delete my daily tasks and priorities is, literally, a highlight of my day. I even have charts to help me prioritise what my priorities will be for the working hours ahead of  me.

However, I can’t help but wonder whether, if I did more of K, my L might be less punitive and more eager to down tools and play, colourfully, at the end of a hard day at work…?

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