The return to pre-pandemic office norms is exacting a heavy financial toll on parents of nursery and primary school-age children.

Childcare costs have skyrocketed by nearly £200 per week, with employers demanding additional days in the office, according to a recent study conducted by flexible childcare provider Pebble.

The research revealed that more than half of surveyed parents have experienced increased pressure to return to the office beyond their initial expectations. As a result, they are now grappling with additional childcare expenses averaging £166 per week.

This surge in costs is forcing parents to bear an eye-watering burden of approximately £664 extra per month.

An extra 2 days in the office

Employers, on average, are requesting their staff to spend an extra two days per week at the office, leaving nearly 60 percent of the 2,000 parents surveyed struggling to balance work and childcare responsibilities. With two in five parents grappling with the financial strain of these extra costs, concerns about affordability are rampant.

The financial toll is not limited to childcare alone. The study found that employees are spending an additional £98.7 per week on travel costs due to the extended office hours. In London, this number soars to £132.92 per week, equating to over £500 extra per month.

Moreover, London parents are grappling with higher childcare expenses, averaging £205 extra per week, translating to nearly £1,000 per month in added expenditures.

These soaring costs could not come at a worse time, as families across the UK are already struggling to make ends meet amidst the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. A concerning 37 percent of families report that these supplementary expenses are putting severe strain on their finances, with 20 percent expressing fears about their ability to sustain these financial burdens in the long term.

How are parents coping?

In response to this untenable situation, many parents are resorting to drastic measures. Half of the respondents are contemplating leaving their current jobs and actively seeking positions that allow for greater flexibility in working from home. Meanwhile, over a third have already transitioned to jobs that do not require frequent office attendance.

Lance Beare, CEO of Pebble, expressed his concern, stating, “The fact that working parents are actively changing jobs to manage childcare costs is simply unacceptable, and it’s costly for businesses too.

Employers need to reassess what people need support with today; without childcare in place, parents can’t work. Families need more flexible childcare options and understanding employers.”

What should employers do?

The study underscores a pressing need for employers to acknowledge the challenges surrounding childcare and increased office hours. A majority (63%) of parents wish for their employers to be more understanding, while nearly half are seeking financial assistance when asked to return to the office for additional days. Additionally, 45 percent believe parents should have the right to choose whether they come into the office for any extra time or not.

As the financial strain on working parents continues to mount, the issue of affordable childcare and flexible work arrangements remains a critical concern for families across the UK.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.