Weekly round-up: from childcare costs to part-time records for older workers

This week’s WM People HR news round-up covers everything from concerns about parents dropping out or reducing their hours due to high childcare costs to a rise in the number of older workers working part time.

Child hold woman's hand at a table. She has her head in her hands and there is an open purse on the table with just a few pence spilling out of it.


Parents leaving jobs or reducing hours due to childcare costs

One in five parents of preschoolers in households earning less than £50k is leaving the workforce due to the cost of childcare, according to a new survey by Pregnant Then Screwed.

The survey of 11,811 parents with children under five years old, which comes on the back of workingmums.co.uk annual survey which also focused on the impact of the cost of living crisis on parents, found 61% of parents said they or their partner has reduced the number of hours they work due to childcare costs or availability. This increases to 67% for Asian parents and 75% for parents of disabled children. Families who have a household income of under £50k are being hit the hardest – with over three-quarters (76.6%) reducing their hours to make childcare work.

Meanwhile, a survey of 2,000 parents of nursery and primary school-aged children from flexible childcare site Pebble found more than half of parents have felt pressure to be in the office an additional two days a week more than they expected, resulting in higher childcare costs equating to an average of £166 per week.

Two in five parents said that they are struggling to afford the extra costs of childcare. There are also extra commuting costs to factor in.  Pebble says employees have to spend almost £100 (£98.7)  more each week on travel costs. The research shows that in order to manage the situation and reduce the high costs associated with childcare, half of parents are planning to quit their current job and are already looking for new roles that allow them to work from home more, whilst over a third say they have already changed jobs to one that doesn’t require them to go into the office as much.

Read more here.

Midlife MOTs need to be more numerous and more in-person

The Government should develop a holistic plan for Midlife MOTs and look to expand the number of face-to-face sessions it provides, according to a new report.

The report, Developing and delivering Midlife MOTs, from Phoenix Insights, says Midlife MOTs –  reviews for older people to see how they’re doing against financial, wellbeing and career goals – can help to build confidence and shift participants’ thinking about retirement, but they need to be relevant, timely and useful for people to take follow-up action on the back of them.

It calls on the Government to encourage companies to promote and use Midlife MOTs, and share best practice and to and it recommends that employers should review their existing offer to employees to include some elements of an MOT and consider tailoring their own programme. It also says employers could nudge follow-up action through an action plan and signposting to further help, such as financial advice.

Read more here.

SMEs to get support on menopause under Labour

Labour has announced that, if elected, it will publish guidance for small businesses to support women going through menopause.

Anneliese Dodds, chair of the party, told a Women in Work Summit in London this week that the party will provide guidance to small firms about how to support staff experiencing severe symptoms of the menopause in order to help retain them.

The party announced earlier in the year that it would oblige larger employers to have a “menopause action plan” that sets out how they are supporting menopausal women.

Report outlines extent of sickness absences since Covid

Workplace absences in the UK are at the highest rate in over a decade, according to a new report.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report, supported by Simplyhealth, shows employees were absent an average of 7.8 days over the past year, compared to the pre-pandemic rate of 5.8 days. Three quarters (76%) of respondents reported stress-related absence in their organisation in the past year.

The CIPD is calling on organisations to have an open and supportive culture, where people can speak to line managers about health issues and access support and adjustments, such as flexible working options and health services.

The top causes of short-term absence are: Minor illnesses (94%), musculoskeletal injuries (45%) and mental ill health (39%) while the causes of long-term absence are: Mental ill health (63%), acute medical conditions, such as stroke or cancer (51%) and musculoskeletal injuries (51%).

Over a third (37%) of organisations reported COVID-19 as still being a significant cause of short-term absence.

Despite the extent of the problem only 53% of organisations questioned had a stand-alone wellbeing strategy – a percentage which has only increased slightly since a previous survey in 2021.

Meanwhile, the Department for Work and Pensions is reported, by the Times, to be launching pilot sessions in London and Birmingham with specialist therapists including physiotherapists, mental health counsellors and stroke specialists  assessing people claiming sickness benefits in an effort to bring down long-term sickness.

FCA publishes proposals to boost D&I

The Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] has published proposals to boost diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector and improve internal governance.

The proposals include new rules and guidance to make clear that misconduct such as bullying and sexual harassment poses a risk to healthy firm culture.  They set flexible, proportionate minimum standards, placing more requirements on larger firms. Under the proposals firms will need to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy setting out how the firm will meet their objectives and goals; collect, report and disclose data against certain characteristics; and set targets to address under-representation.

The FCA says flexibility is at the heart of the proposals, meaning each firm will need to come up with their own solutions.

Job postings slow

There is evidence of a slowing in new vacancies as weekly job postings no longer reach post-pandemic weekly highs of above 200,000, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Lightcast’s latest Labour Market Tracker.

By historical standards, however, the REC says activity remains good. It says there were nearly 180,000 new job postings in the week of 11-17 September 2023 – 4% higher than the week before (4-10 September 2023), and 13.5% higher than the same period in 2022, when the economy was affected by the period of national mourning after the death of the Queen.

It notes, however, that there is evidence of a minor slowing in the rate of new job postings over the summer. There were notable increases in adverts for roles that typically have a hiring peak in September, including horticultural trades (+16.9), school midday and crossing patrol occupations (+15%) and welfare professionals (+11.5%).

Increase in number of part-time workers

The number of people aged 50 and older who are working part time now stands at 3.6 million – a record high, according to new analysis.

Rest Less, an over 50s community site, looked at data from the Office of National Statistics which shows the number of part-time and full-time workers by age bracket since the 1990s.  They found that the number of over 50s working part time has increased by 12% in the past two years, by 26% in the past decade and by 56% in the past two decades.

They also found that the number of people aged 66 and older (state pension age rose to 66 in 2020) working part time has increased by 18% since 2021 from 661,000 in 2021 to 781,000 in 2023.  Significantly more men aged 66 and older are now working part time than women – 426,000 in 2023, an increase of 22% on 2021 figures, compared with 355,000 women, an increase of 14% compared with 2021 figures.

Meanwhile, a Government report shows the employment rate for 50 to 64-year-olds is not yet back to pre-pandemic (2019) levels, although it has increased over the past year. From 2019 to 2022 the employment rate of older adults decreased each year from a record high in 2019 of 72.5% to 70.7%. Over the past year, the employment rate of people aged 50 to 64 years has increased by 0.6 percentage points to 71.3%, though the Government says the increase is not statistically significant.

Read more here.

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