106 Communications

6th Sense

Childcare is only half of the solution

June 2015 | Diversity, Health and Wellbeing

Recently I found myself researching a local employer in SE London. 36 vacancies listed: not a single one part-time. I spoke to the lead recruiter to double-check this was the case. He told me he hadn’t checked with the line managers but it was ‘safe to assume’ they would all be looking for full-timers. Hmmmmm. Really?

That same day, I read that the Conservatives are pushing ahead with their election promise to increase free childcare for pre-schoolers to 30 hours a week from the current 15 hours. Fantastic news. I can’t wait to see tens of thousands of parents getting back into work off the back of this – assuming there are tens of thousands of recruiters ready to receive them back with open arms, of course.

Because providing sufficient childcare is only ever going to be half of the solution to getting parents back to work. The other half is about the attitudes some recruiters and line managers have to part-time workers.

30 hours of childcare equates to six hours a day over a five-day working week, or four full days a week. I’m a parent; I know lots of other parents. I know of only one mother who has a job working less than six hours a day (she’s a solicitor in her own family’s firm): few employers seem open to taking on employees for less than the traditional 7.5 hour day.

Four days a week is more do-able. But few parents work within spitting distance of their child’s nursery; and lots of pre-schools (my daughter’s included) are only open 9am-3pm – so parents still need additional support to make it work.

I am constantly depressed when I see the intelligent, sparky, interesting parents in my daughters’ playground who’ve given up trying to make work fit around their children. Additional childcare provision is great news – but recruiters need to change too if it’s to have real impact.

Yes, most employers offer flexible solutions. But busy recruiters will always go for the easy option. The 9am-5.30pm candidate over the candidate who wants a six-hour day; the full-time worker over the 3-days-a-week parent; the office-based candidate over the home-worker. And as I discovered, they’ll rarely question a line manager who tells them a vacancy is full-time only.

The political support to get parents back to work is brilliant. About 30% of potential workers are parents; that’s a lot of available talent to dismiss purely because they can’t work a traditional 37.5-hour week.

And increasingly, this isn’t just about parents. There are all sorts of talented people out there with all sorts of contributions to make, many of whom want to combine work with the other passions in their lives. Open-minded recruiters who seek to include these workers in the mix will be rewarded with a far more diverse, interesting workforce in return.

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