Rate of mothers returning to work has risen by 9.1% since 2000

The rate at which women in the UK are returning to work once becoming mothers has risen by 9.1% since 2000, according to research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The report, Families and the labour market, UK: 2019, released on 24 October 2019, also found that three-quarters (75%) of women with dependent children in the UK are now in active employment. 

In comparison, the proportion of men with dependant children currently in employment has increased from 89% in 2000 to 93% in 2019.  

However, both mothers (29%) and fathers (31%) reported facing obstacles in fulfilling childcare responsibilities around their working life. Among women, 8% have changed job or employer to aid their childcare responsibilities, a figure which drops to 2% among men.

More than half of UK mothers (56%) have made a change to their employment, such as reducing working hours or taking on less demanding tasks, for childcare reasons, compared with 22% of fathers. Almost 3 in 10 (29%) of women with a child aged 14 years and under stated that they had reduced their working hours for this reason; this is compared to only 5% of fathers. 

More than two-fifths (44%) of UK parents made changes to their employment situation when caring for children up to four years old; this decreases to just under one quarter (25%) when children reach the ages of 11 to 14.

The study also found that there are 1.8 million lone-parent families with children in the UK in 2019, and that the majority (70%) of lone parents were in employment. For children aged under two years old, 35% of lone parents were in full-time employment; this increases to 66% of lone parents of children aged between 16 and 18.

Almost three-fifths (58%) of women with children, and 55% of men, stated that they feel it is generally possible to access flexible working arrangements. However, 45% of men and 42% of women have found it either rarely or never possible to move to a flexible working structure.

Nick Woodward, chief executive officer and founder of ETZ Payments, said: “This news is fantastic and demonstrates the incorporation of flexible working from many employers as 62% of parents said that it was possible to vary their working day to look after children, according to the ONS.

“Despite this being a UK record, there is still more that can be done. Only 2% of parents have taken up the option for shared parental leave and the option of flexible working is not advertised to all employees, so companies should do more to encourage this and help parents make work, work for them.”