The employment rate for lone parents in the UK dropped to 66.4% between April and June 2022, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The rate represents the lowest point for single parents in employment since between January and March 2016 and equates to 617,000 parents out of paid work, up from 530,000 dating back to before the pandemic.
The number of lone parents with dependent children – (those under 16 or between 16 and 18 and in full time education) dropped 2.1% April to June 2022 when compared to the same period in 2021.
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Victoria Benson, chief executive of single parent family charity Gingerbread, said the pandemic has made the situation much worse for parents.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “The ONS data reflects our recent research and what we are hearing from parents. This increase in unemployment began during the pandemic when single parents were more likely to be furloughed and many lost hours or jobs.
“This, coupled with the need to homeschool their children and later on take periods of isolation, meant that many were forced out of the workforce.”
The total number of lone parents in employment fell 4% to 1.21 million when compared to April – June 2021.
Benson added that parents need more support in terms of flexible working to allow them to juggle work and care responsibilities.
She said: “Single parents have significantly less practical and financial flexibility than couple parents and in order to work they need both suitable work (that enables them to juggle their caring and working responsibilities) and childcare that is affordable and flexible. However, many don’t have either as there is a shortage of both suitable work and childcare.
“As a result, we often see single parents in jobs that for which they are overqualified – because they need flexibility and that is more likely to be offered in lower paid roles. Frequently we hear that parents cannot take up employment because the childcare system does not work for them.
“It’s devastating to see the employment rate has fallen and single parents are being pushed out of the workforce. This government needs to have a better understanding of the lives of single parents and to offer flexible childcare funding to those parenting alone. Employers need to offer more support and flexibility to single parents to ensure they can stay in work.”