A significant shortage of wraparound childcare in the UK is severely impacting parents’ ability to work to their full potential, according to new research by childcare provider Koru Kids.

The study reveals that nearly two-thirds (61%) of parents could work more hours if after-school care were more accessible, with the figure rising to 71 percent for parents of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Currently, 63 percent of UK parents utilise before or after-school childcare at least once a week, and 20 percent use it daily. However, 29 percent face difficulties in accessing the necessary wraparound care due to full programs or schools not offering the option.

This shortage forces 35 percent of parents to juggle work demands while caring for their children at home. The impact is multifaceted: 42 percent of parents have to start work later or leave earlier, and 20 percent end up working late into the evening to compensate. Consequently, 29 percent report feeling more tired at work, and 30 percent experience increased stress levels.

The financial repercussions are particularly severe for mothers. Women are almost twice as likely as men (31% vs. 16%) to sacrifice pay for more flexible jobs. Also, 74 percent of mothers report their career progression or pay has suffered due to childcare responsibilities, compared to 65 percent of fathers. Childcare costs are also increasing faster than salaries for 21 percent of mothers, compared to 14 percent of fathers, and more women (12% vs. 8%) have had to leave their jobs to secure a pay rise.

Flexibility is key

The strain is felt across the board: 30 percent of parents have taken holiday days to manage childcare needs, 21 percent have taken unpaid leave, and 18 percent have had to cut back financially to afford childcare.

Rachel Carrell, founder of Koru Kids, criticised the current system, stating, “It’s clear the current system isn’t working – and the government’s plans for change are too little, too late. According to the figures, it will take until September 2026 to provide enough childcare places for everyone, and that’s if things stay on track!”

Carrell emphasised the need for immediate and meaningful changes to allow parents to contribute fully to the workforce and economy without financial strain. She noted the availability of flexible childcarers, hindered by an outdated funding system that primarily supports 9-5 care, which is insufficient for families with varying work schedules.

“Flexibility is key. If parents are to get access to the flexible childcare they need, the system needs a complete overhaul,” Carrell concluded.

 

 

 

 

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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.