From education to employment

Trust is fundamental for single parents in the workplace

Lorraine Donoghue, Executive Director of People at The Skills Network

In 2017 a report by ONS shed light on the disparity between single parents and their coupled counterparts in the workplace, with just 71.7% of single fathers in work compared to 93% of fathers in a couple; and 68.5% of single mothers working as opposed to the 75% of those in a couple.

Findings revealed an even greater employment gap when the youngest dependent child was aged under three, with almost half of single mothers and 62.3% of single fathers not in employment.

In the UK, there are 1.8 million single parents, making up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children and around 90 per cent of single parents are women,  with the pressure felt by all parents often amplified for those raising children alone. 

The demands of employment as a single parent are clear, with a recent report published by single parent charity Gingerbread and the Institute for Employment studies suggesting that the world of work needs to be more adaptive to the needs of single parents, with inflexibility in processes, childcare infrastructure and workplace organisational culture adding to the challenges.

More single parents were furloughed than those in couples throughout the pandemic and a far greater proportion of single parents were seen to be working in the hardest-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail.

Lorraine Donoghue, Executive Director of People at The Skills Network share’s her tips on how to better support single working parents in the workplace:

“The move to remote working and on-going technological advancements has created a shift in the mindset of both the employee and employer, with work and life better integrated and flexibility promoted.

The shift has created opportunities for employers to better support working parents which is especially important for single parents, with employees more accurately measured on output and not simply by time spent at the desk.

“It is far more accepted to do the school run in the afternoon and return to the workstation to carry on where you left off, which is invaluable to many working parents across all industries.

While the move to home working has created more flexibility for many single parents, employers must recognise the unique demands facing these individuals and the often challenging emotions that parents experience when balancing the priorities of being a parent and the requirements of their role. Offering mental health support and maintaining an ethos of trust throughout the workplace is crucial.

The Skills Network is an inclusive employer who understands the importance of flexibility and the demands of varying lives. From the design of our training content and tech, through to the management of our teams internally, I’m proud to work for a business that strives to integrate inclusivity and flexibility into all elements of operation. While it’s clear that homeworking and family focused working practices support with some of the practical demands of being a single parent, it is not a solution. Changing the place of work does not remove the commitment required to care for a dependent child and f career progression , but it is clear that technological advancement and the mindset shift seen following the pandemic have allowed for positive steps forwards”

By Lorraine Donoghue, Executive Director of People at The Skills Network

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