A staggering 70 percent of working parents in the UK are either quitting or contemplating leaving their jobs due to the prohibitive cost of childcare, according to new research by Remote, a leading global HR platform for distributed companies.

The study highlights the profound financial and mental strain imposed by return-to-office mandates and the lack of genuine flexible working options, further aggravating the UK’s workforce shortages.

The survey reveals that 73% of working parents have either accepted a pay cut or reduced their working hours due to unaffordable childcare.

This trend is worsening the UK’s persistent skills gap, with ManPower’s recent findings indicating that the cross-sector shortfall has reached an 18-year high of 80 percent.

Despite the introduction of the Flexible Work Act in April, many parents still face challenges. Remote’s research indicates that 65 percent of working parents have been offered what they describe as ‘fake flexibility,’ resulting in unplanned childcare expenses.

The mandatory return to office is particularly alarming, with 73 percent fearing increased childcare costs if they are required to work more days in the office.

How does this impact the skills gap?

“Working parents are the glaringly obvious solution to the UK’s ever-growing skills gap, but this research shows just how little they are being supported,” said Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer at Remote. “Working parents could be the answer recruitment teams have been looking for, but it’s clear that the cost of childcare is holding them back from fully returning to the workforce. Urgent action is needed to bring down the cost of childcare, but also to ensure that working parents are offered the support and flexibility in the workplace that they need to return to work in a sustainable way.”

Further, the survey highlights that nearly two-thirds (63%) of working parents have faced reprimands or negative feedback for taking unplanned time off due to their child’s illness. The emotional toll is significant, with 75% of respondents feeling guilty or anxious about taking time off for childcare, and working mothers (78%) experiencing more guilt than working fathers (68%).

What about the health of working parents?

Childcare challenges are also impacting the mental health of working parents, with 21 percent reporting a negative effect. Moreover, the difficulty of balancing work and childcare is influencing family planning decisions, with one in four respondents postponing or reconsidering having more children over the past year.

The research underscores the necessity of workplace support, with flexible working hours cited as the top priority for job-seeking parents (37%), surpassing pay (35%) and job security (25%).

The Working Parents Survey, commissioned by Remote, gathered data from 1,501 working parents with at least one child under five years old in March 2023. Respondents were evenly divided among fully remote, hybrid, and in-office working arrangements, all holding white-collar desk jobs.





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.