Jeremy Hunt Says £100K is Not Enough, So How Else Can Employers Support Working Parents?

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Jeremy Hunt Says £100K is Not Enough, So How Else Can Employers Support Working Parents?
Photo Credits - Juliane Liebermann via Unsplash

In modern times, where juggling work and family responsibilities is increasingly challenging, the call to support working parents hasn’t been more urgent. Recently, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt sparked debate by asserting that £100,000 is not enough to raise a family. This has spotlighted the financial strains working parents face during the cost-of-living crisis.

With childcare costs consuming a significant portion of monthly income, a question arises… How can employers alleviate this burden and truly support working parents? In this article, we delve into Jeremy Hunt’s statement and explore the staggering costs of childcare. We also examine how employers can provide working parents the support they need and the repercussions if they don’t.

£100k “Doesn’t Go as Far as You Might Think”

Initially, Jeremy Hunt was on the hot seat after saying £100,000 “doesn’t go as far as you might think”. Since then, he claimed that after childcare costs and a mortgage (with houses averaging £670,000 in his area), that large salary isn’t as good as the public may believe.

READ: Gap Between Working Parents Needs and Employer Support Continues to Grow

From January this year, eligible parents receive 15 hours of free weekly childcare for their two-year-olds. This will be extended to parents with nine-month-olds in September, and the weekly allowance will be doubled in 2025. 

However, households earning over £100,000 are exempt from this support. As such, Jeremy Hunt has discussed his desire to address support for working parents on higher salaries in the future. 

Sky-High Childcare Costs Make Working Parent Support Critical

One of the most significant impacts of the cost-of-living crisis is childcare expenditures. According to the Co-operative Bank, London-based parents spend an average of £1,781 monthly on childcare fees. This equates to 31% of an individual’s net earnings if they were on £100,000 annually, highlighting the need to support working parents.

Elsewhere, parents in Liverpool, whose average net household income is £50,351, spend around £800 monthly on the same. For Liverpool-based parents, this represents 19.1% of their net income. Worryingly, these figures show the dire situation parents across the wealth classes are facing.

How can Employers Support Working Parents?

Soaring childcare costs have made it essential that employers provide appropriate working parent support. To learn firsthand about what employers can do, we speak to two working mothers – Tessa Harris and Alex Hodson. Tessa and Alex work as the employment law director and senior associate respectively at Redmans Solicitors.

Q 1. What Support Did You Receive to Help Balance Work and Parenting?

When asked about the help they received from employers in juggling work and parenting, both of them shared their experiences openly. And though their experiences with support during and after pregnancy were different, the common factor was that they were both offered a ton of flexibility that was tailored to suit them.

Tessa tells us that during maternity leave in the past, she benefitted from good company maternity pay and care packages after giving birth. She mentioned having the option of using childcare vouchers as well. However, it was the flexibility in choosing working hours that helped her tremendously.

Alex also says during her first maternity leave, the company she was at had someone cover her absence during maternity leave. As a result, her transition into her role once she was back was smooth. Moreover, Alex was also able to work from home or leave early to take care of her child, which was very beneficial.

Q 2. How Did The Support Help You Navigate Parenthood at Work?

Moving forward, Tessa contemplated how her employer’s support for working parents had positively impacted her ability to balance parenthood with work. Central to her experience was the firm’s unwavering prioritisation of family, which instilled a sense of reassurance and freedom. 

Alex raises the same point as flexible working allowed her to take care of her daughter who would fall ill often. “I was lucky that my employer had understood this, so if I had to finish early, they had no issues with me leaving or working from home to juggle both”, she adds.

The ability to work from home emerged as a game-changer, as it offered unparalleled flexibility. It facilitated school pickups and enabled her to pursue her career aspirations without missing out on pivotal moments in her child’s early years.

Q 3. What Advice Would You Offer Employers Committed to Improvement?

Alex emphasises the importance of being able to switch off after work – be it physically leaving work or switching off the laptop at home. She says, “Not being able to focus on your parental responsibilities when you’re not working and being distracted with calls, emails or messages from work can be a huge detriment to someone’s mental wellbeing.”

She also says that employers need to ensure a smooth handover once the person returns. During her second maternity leave, she did not have anyone cover her role. As a result, returning to her role while also being a new parent took a toll on her mental health. KIT days or catch-up meetings are a great way to ensure a smooth return, in her opinion.

Considering the skills shortage employers face, Tessa reminds us how workplaces with supportive cultures would more likely retain staff. With this in mind, Tessa urged employers to be open-minded with employee requests. Even if initially sceptical, she highlights that parents are under immense pressure to excel both professionally and personally.

We live in an age where most can work from home. Employers must embrace this to support working parents.

Tessa further championed flexible working practices to promote the career aspirations of working parents and said, “We live in an age where we have the ability to work from home in most professions”. And therefore, employers have an opportunity to demonstrate trust in their employees and revise their policies to better align with parental responsibilities without impacting workforce productivity.

Employer Repercussions Who Fail to Support Working Parents

When employers fail to support parents, it negatively impacts both the parents and the employers. While employees may struggle to cover childcare costs, employers could face their own troubles.

In Tessa’s experience, the ramifications of inadequate support became evident with a particular employer when they insisted on a rigid in-office requirement. This was unfeasible since a lengthy commute severely limited her time with her child. As a result, Tessa opted to prioritise her family’s well-being and sought employment elsewhere.

READ: Working Parents are Hesitant to Take Leave When Their Child is Sick – Here’s How Employers Can Help

Separately, in Mrs A Perkins v Marston (Holdings) Limited, a working mother won her claim of indirect sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. This came after her employer changed her job description to include a long-distance travel requirement. When the mother couldn’t meet the new requirement due to her childcare responsibilities, she was sacked. However, the employment tribunal found no fair reason for her dismissal and held that the new requirement was not a proportionate measure to achieve the business’s legitimate aims.

Our Final Thoughts – Employers Must Support Working Parents

Each of the above stories underscores the repercussions employers may face when they fail to support parents adequately. The loss of experienced and talented employees like Tessa could lead to significant setbacks for businesses, including:

  • Talent Drain – Where employees are forced to choose between their career and family and leave, worsening the skills shortage problem
  • Reputational Damage – When the negative experience of former employees becomes public knowledge, causing future recruitment struggles
  • Productivity Declines – When the workforce feels unvalued due to the lack of support, causing disengagement and higher turnover rates
  • Legal Risks – Where employers fail to meet legal obligations, resulting in lengthy, expensive claims

Companies must revisit their working parent support to ensure parents can cope with the cost-of-living crisis and employers don’t experience any of the above setbacks. By identifying shortfalls and addressing them now, businesses can avoid any such repercussions.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about how employers must support working parents. Sign up for our newsletter today to ensure you don’t miss our future publications. If you have any employment law issues, contact Redmans Solicitors for a free consultation now.

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