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MNHQ here: are you returning to work, or have you recently returned after parental leave? Tell the Petitions Committee about your experiences

(40 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 04-Mar-20 16:55:25


We've had a request from our friends in Parliament's engagement team: here's what they have to say.

"On Monday 9 March, Catherine McKinnell MP will be chairing the Petitions Committee debate on providing 15 hours free childcare to working parents for children over 9 months. As well as the financial impact of childcare, she’d like to know how the cost of childcare affected your decision to return to work. How has the cost of childcare affected your family as a whole and what else do you think the Government could do to support parents returning to work after parental leave?"

"The petition, which received 146,397 signatures, stated “After 9 months of maternity leave, most working mums do not receive any maternity pay and need to go back to work. I think all working parents should be entitled to 15 hours free childcare from the time a child is 9 months. It makes more sense to provide this funding from 9 months instead of 2 years.”"

"We will pass on your comments and experiences to Catherine McKinnell MP who will use them to inform the debate. Links to watch the debate and read the transcript will be posted when they become available."

"Tell us about your experience by midday Sunday 8 March. She may quote and refer to your contributions during the debate."

OP’s posts: |
Starface Wed 04-Mar-20 18:45:34

The early years are the most expensive, apart from the Uni and establishment years. This is primarily due to the cost of childcare.

I have recently returned to work after my third child. Due to progressive taxation it is not worth my while to work more than part time - for additional days I would be paying to work. This does not fit with a government that might like to take full advantage of my education and skills. It limits my ability to work now. It also limits my progression, as it has been made clear to me that positions at a more senior level are unlikely to be part time. Working in the NHS, the gap from the top of one band to the bottom of another is small, such that pay progression does not mitigate the effects. Similarly, my husband compresses his hours to accommodate time with the children for childcare while I work, but cannot progress as this would be harder at greater seniority. We are trapped. Although it affects us both, I have taken the bigger hit as I take maternity leave (and my income is affected by this), in order to directly breastfeed my children as is best for them. This is best income-wise for our household. Overall this creates a minimum 10-15 year drag on my career, and a 5 or so year drag on his. This is a structural inequality I object to.

I am fortunate that I had a promotion since my first - I could not have afforded childcare for 3 from my previous salary, because of that expensive period before the age of 3. This is despite spacing them partially to take advantage of the cost savings of the provision that comes in at 3. And that is another impact. Otherwise we would have faced a choice - give up work or give up on a third child.

A further impact is on our ability to leverage and obtain a larger mortgage and therefore a bigger home. We cannot move until our youngest is 3.

Overall we are no better off now that I have gone back to work than when I was on maternity leave. Fortunately I can see the benefit of pension and hanging on for 2 years.

15 free hours would improve the situation. I think it is worth considering on what basis this is provided. As I understand it, the evidence shows this is of educational benefit from 3, hence the original 15 hours provision after 3. If the intention is to provide free childcare for working parents, this is an entirely different proposition. It should be thought through from that basis, rather than extending a provision designed for another reason in a complicated patchwork when combined with tax free childcare. There are lots of voices calling for an overall simplification of a bureaucratic and complicated system, which is not clearly thought through.

Bikbikmum Wed 04-Mar-20 18:52:11

This is my biggest concern at the moment. I try to arrange my maternity leave dates, and due to our financials, I am not in a position to take a full year. There is almost no support available for mid income families. (My husband earns £32k per year before tax, I earn £40k before tax we live in London in a rented property) Unless you are at low income threashold you are on your own. next year, once the baby is born, our expenses will increase. Yet there is currently no support available. When I return to work, majority of my salary will also cover childcare. I think it is vital to have childcare support at the early stages to encourage woman to go back to work quicker. I also think during maternity pay (which is basically around £150 pw), I think we should be able to apply a discount on council tax for example. Again, may be we are not low income family, but once I am off work, life is very difficult in London. Also if mother is breastfeeding, it is difficult to arrange workplace/breaks accordingly.

turtletum Wed 04-Mar-20 19:29:07

I'm currently expecting my second child. I will be returning to work after 9 months as I cannot afford to earn nothing. I returned after 9 months last time for the same reasons. I work slightly part time and my husband works compressed hours, to enable us to meet the financial cost of childcare. In the south east where I live, the cost of childcare is high. We pay over £1000 a month for just under 4 days of nursery. That's more than our mortgage! My career is being held back as I cannot commit to roles with greater responsibility. I cannot be a stay at home mum as our mortgage needs both of us working to make it affordable. I didn't even contemplate having a second child until the first was eligible for the funded childcare hours, as we certainly couldn't afford two in full cost childcare.
I would fully welcome 15 hours of childcare at 9 months. It would allow me to go back to work part time initially, and keep breastfeeding for longer, but in an affordable way. It would also mean I'd be able to go up to full time/apply for promotions sooner, rather than having to wait until my child is 3 years, 4 months. I appreciate that in many ways I'm lucky, I'm a home owner with a decent job. But the 15 hours would be a huge help to those living more hand to mouth, like some of my friends. It would mean they could afford to work part time. Currently, nursery costs are essentially greater than their wages, once you consider travelling time and transport costs. Yes, they can claim benefits but many would rather be working and building their skills. Furthermore, it would be especially helpful for those women suffering mental health problems such as post natal depression, ptsd, or similar. It would allow them to have a break from looking after their child(ren) to seek sustained and appropriate help.

Anothername19 Wed 04-Mar-20 20:25:27

Is this just propping up disproportionate rises in house prices? My grandparents had one wage to support a family of 5 whereas we have two salaries and it would certainly be a big change to where we could afford to live if we did only have one salary coming in. If we keep housing costs high, families need two wages to sustain it, then we have to subsidise childcare, and perhaps the wages of the childcare assistants on min wage, and then we have to have an administration system for delivering this subsidy and working out who gets what... ultimately this chain of subsidy is paying for private gain of the housing industry, private landlords/builders/homeowners. I understand they are also taxpayers but it seems odd to me - seems like a sticking plaster. Perhaps I’m being harsh. It would definitely have helped me - we work opposite shifts to avoid childcare costs which is damaging our marriage.

slapmyarseandcallmemary Thu 05-Mar-20 09:27:07

I'm returning next week after my 2nd child. She's 9 months. I also have an almost 3yr old. I am having to return nightshift 2x12hr shifts a week, as we cannot afford childcare, and have no family around us locally to help. In Scotland, the free childcare hours at 2yrs are for parents who dont work. So, we do not qualify. My wife earns £20,000 a yr, so we cannot afford for me not to work. And our oldest wont get free childcare until August because his birthday is April. It's a silly system, where working parents are penalised.

Mybobowler Thu 05-Mar-20 11:05:52

I returned to work last October, when my daughter was 9 months old. She's in nursery for 2 days a week, costing £500 a month. We aee incredibly fortunate to have family help for the remaining day that I'm at work.

The nursery fees combined with the loss of my full-time income mean our household is down £1000 a month. My partner and I are both in good jobs, but we didn't have that much slack in our budget and we are struggling. Our savings are gone and any unforeseen expenses (a broken down car, for example) will have to go on a credit card.

The financial and emotional cost of putting our daughter in full time childcare was a really difficult thing to balance. It's a very personal decision, but I couldn't have coped with returning to work for more than three days a week while she is so little. In the end, we realised that my salary combined with commuting expenses would have meant I was earning only £10 a day more than the cost of nursery. Having 15 hours free from 9 months would make such an enormous difference to our circumstances. I'm at a point now where I would like to increase my hours at work, but the finances barely add up.

The cost of childcare is also a key concern when we think about having a second. I would dearly love another child in the next year or two but there's no way we could afford to have two children in nursery. As it is, we will have to wait until our daughter receives free hours from the April following her third birthday. It seems a long way off!

katmarie Thu 05-Mar-20 12:05:57

I have a 2 year old DS and a 4 month old DD. I'm due to return to work in September, if I opt to take the three months unpaid. However, not only do I have no mat pay/salary during those 3 months, my working tax credits will stop during that time too, and I can't take DS out of nursery for 3 months, he will lose his place as well as the structure and routine he has there. Which is all pushing me towards having to go back when DD is 8 months (I had to start mat leave early for various reasons).

Currently I pay £870 per month for nursery for one child, when DD starts that will almost double, and will be more than my take home pay every month. I'm currently looking around at other options including higher paid jobs, more flexible work such as evenings and weekends, going part time until DS receives his 30 hours if my company can facilitate this, or going self employed and working at home around the children some way.

My DS's nursery setting is fantastic, and he is really thriving there, I really don't want to disrupt that and I want my DD to have the same opportunities. I also don't begrudge them their fees, they earn them every day, the staff do a wonderul job for what is quite low pay. But making the money work is proving challenging. If 15 hours free was brought in from 9 months, both of my children's nursery bills would drop dramatically, I would be able to go back to work after 12 months off, giving me a clear 2 month window to settle DD into nursery and support her through the adjustment to going full time at a sensible pace, I would then be able to go back to work full time. I would also be able to make a stronger commitment to my company now that my family is complete, and possibly embrace building a career with them, knowing that I have stable, affordable childcare.

I don't think I can overstate the positive difference this policy would have for my family.

Jess827 Thu 05-Mar-20 12:39:52

I think it's an excellent idea, fully support it. The economic impact alone, just stepping back from my own family for a moment, would surely be a net gain - women being able to make more / better use of their training and skills, being able to take up employment opportunities that at the moment are stifled, making women's employment options more like that of dads - I'd make use of it, and so would a lot of my family members who are even worse off (trapped) than me e.g. having to juggle an impossible balance between family commitments and their work when weighing up how and when to return to work after mat leave. Or if to return at all.

GiveHerHellFromUs Thu 05-Mar-20 14:56:04

I've been back at work 3 weeks. 15 hours free childcare would equate to about £75 a week for us and would be most welcome. We're fortunate enough to be fairly financially stable, but it means we can't claim CB, tax credits etc. Obviously we had a child bearing these costs in mind but it would make a huge difference to be able to get support with these costs at a younger age.

Daftodil Thu 05-Mar-20 17:01:01

A report (by the TUC - found that fathers working full-time get paid a fifth more than men with similar jobs who don’t have children. The report shows that dads who work full-time experience, on average, a 21% ‘wage bonus’ and that working fathers with two kids earn more (9%) than those with just one. The findings are in stark contrast to the experience of working mothers, says the report. Women who become mothers before 33 typically suffer a 15% pay penalty. If more childcare options were available, women might be more able to continue working more hours a week, therefore having less of an impact on their long-term career prospects.

During and after maternity leave, your own income and opportunities are likely to take a backseat to the welfare of your child. The decision a woman makes at this stage has a big impact on her work experience, her career progression, her salary increases, any bonuses, her pension pot and various other factors in a way that a man whobecomes a fatherdoes not tend to worry about. When women are starting with less money than men due to a prevailing pay gap, then the wage gap is exacerbated even further by these factors for women who are mothers. A couple can make a joint decision for the woman to stay at home with the children, but that doesn't mean that they will have joint consequences further down the line. Whilst for some, income is seen as "household" money, if a relationship breaks down, then typically, a man will still have this extra household money in his account, in his pension pot, in his pocket. This isn't necessarily the case for the stay-at-home partner who has put her (or his) finances and career on hold to look after the children. It also leaves many women stuck in abusive relationships because they simply can't afford to move away from the situation.

The post asks for suggestions of what the government could do to help women during and shortly after maternity leave. One suggestion would be for the government to continue to pay pension contributions to the woman's pension pot or for fathers to have the option of paying in to the mother's pension pot during the time that she has reduced her hours or is an at-home mum. This would help narrow the pension gap further down the line and leave women less vulnerable should a relationship end in divorce and her partner subsequently re-marry, leaving her without a pension later on.

The above are my thoughts for if a woman is in a relationship, but in the case of single mothers, the situation is far more dire. I am fortunate enough to have family support, however if I didn't I simply would not have been able to continue working. I was able to continue in my job with reduced hours as I am fortunate enough to work for an employer with good flexible working practices. If I didn't have family support, I would've had to leave my job. The costs of my mortgage, bills, food etc with the addition of nappies, full time childcare and various other baby paraphernalia would have exceeded my income by some margin. If I had left completely, there is no way I would have been able to return to the workforce at this time as I wouldn't be able to find a job with my current hour pattern at the same level (most part time jobs are in low wage care, retail, service industries - it is very rare to see 3-day-a-week jobs advertised in many "career" type positions, so I would have been unable to return to work until my child was at school age.

Whilst I have reduced my hours, I am unable to progress up the property ladder as my mortgage was based on my full time income and if I am to remortgage, I would not be able to borrow the current amount I have outstanding. Despite being able to pay my mortgage, I am unable to shop around for a better deal when my fixed term ends, because I would not meet the criteria for borrowing the amount outstanding. Perhaps the government could encourage mortgage lenders to look at re-payment history rather than solely look at income figures.

Bringing forward the free childcare places from 9 months would have a huge benefit to women who are left literally holding the baby after a relationship breaks down. There are many posts on mumsnet about CMS payments too and how women are expected to pay for everything in the absence of a father who has opted out of parenthood. Or perhaps sometimes the father will contribute £10/wk or some small amount which doesn't even cover 2 hours of childcare a week. Another thing the government could do would be to make claiming CMS payments easier/automatic. There are many women who don't know the current whereabouts of their child's father or who have left abusive relationships and may be reluctant to claim. This disadvantages the women and children, so a system that automatically enrolls all fathers at the point of signing the birth certificate would be hugely beneficial.

Another factor to consider is that many women also pay commuting costs. If commuting every day, a season ticket is a cheaper option for paying this cost. If commuting 2, 3 or 4 days, a season ticket should be available at a proportionate cost. Could the government lobby for rail companies to offer this?

If baby is born prematurely, the first few months might be spent in hospital and parents might not be able to bond with their children as well or might have to return to work before any of the major milestones. Having 15hrs childcare from 9 months would perhaps enable parents of premature babies to go back to work on reduced hours and have some additional time at home with their child/ren. Either way, another suggestion for government would be for mat leave to be calculated from expected due date, rather than date of birth so that families of premature babies get more time to bond and witness milestones as the baby grows (premature babies are more likely to hit milestones later as they are however many weeks behind themselves developmentally).

katmarie Thu 05-Mar-20 19:00:46

I support everything Daftodil has said. It's not just about childcare, that is one part of a much bigger picture. Other than childcare the things that will help me go back to work would be true flexible working, and the ability to work from home, decent pay, an employer that understands that life happens outside work sometimes, also decent sick pay.

Daftodil Thu 05-Mar-20 20:37:58

@Bikbikmum's idea is great. This would definitely be a huge help during the stat mat pay/zero pay times: "I also think during maternity pay (which is basically around £150 pw), I think we should be able to apply a discount on council tax for example."

GrumpyHoonMain Fri 06-Mar-20 00:51:43

Larger businesses should be forced to provide full salary pay for the entire 12 month maternity period. It’s ridiculous that companies like HSBC and Google are paying the same bare minimum Mat pay as my local plumber!

sauvignonblancplz Fri 06-Mar-20 07:07:55

Everything @Daftodil has said.
This is a much bigger issue that sees women either stay in the home or struggle with being the homemaker and financially contributing to the home.
Currently I have taken a career break as the logistics of childcare for our family became impossible and would financially cripple us. We’ve paid through the nose for childcare before , I still had to do everything including my own job.
(This is not a reflection on other half)
I’m very aware I am at rush of losing skill
And knowledge in my field, pension etc but I’m
Home with the children so you have to find the balance.
I’m frustrated that there is not more structured accountability to protect a woman in the home.
Why can’t a pension be shared? Why is flexible working for men not a clearer structure?
Why is homeschooling not more mainstream when we know it’s advantages?
Why are front line jobs so poorly paid that it makes saving nearly impossible against the cost of living?

Kpo58 Fri 06-Mar-20 08:19:41

I don't think that 15 hours if childcare would be enough. That's 2 full days of working and no time to get between work and the nursery/childminder or you can spread it out over a week and have no time to work once you have dropped the child off at nursery and gone to work, you'd have about an hour's working time before having to collect the child.

Currently as I have 2 in nursery, I am loosing 3k per year before tax (and that's with the 30 hours at age 3). If I worked full time, I'd loose at least double that amount. I'm lucky to have a husband who is on an ok (but nothing special) salary so that we can just about take the hit. We watch our savings go down every month and are trapped living in a tiny house as we cannot get a larger mortgage currently due to the high cost of childcare. Many people in my area just have to give up work due to the childcare coats or not have more than 1 child.

holidayhuntress Fri 06-Mar-20 08:48:47

Tiny babies should not be shoved into institutional settings, they need to be with a parent at home. We need to be better funding SAHP or much, MUCH better maternity and paternity packages.

GiveHerHellFromUs Fri 06-Mar-20 09:57:17

@holidayhuntress 9 months old isn't a tiny baby and the point is to allow mothers to be able to go back to work and not fall behind on the career ladder. We're not in the 50s anymore.

Daftodil Fri 06-Mar-20 10:47:23

I don't think that 15 hours if childcare would be enough.

@Kpo58, 15 hours might not be the total amount you need, but it would certainly help a lot. Especially if it came 2 1/4 years ahead of when most people get free hours.

We need to be better funding SAHP or much, MUCH better maternity and paternity packages.

I agree that greater parental leave policies are needed, but this policy is to help women return to work. Becoming a SAHP is a valid choice, but not one many people are able to afford. Having 15 hours free childcare from 9 months would enable parents to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children for longer than if they have to go back full time and pay full time childcare. It would be about £3-4K a year (for 2 years extra) which would have a huge benefit to a lot of working families.

Boobahs Fri 06-Mar-20 11:52:33

I am due to return to work soon after having DS2. I had to go part time after the birth of DS1 as we cannot afford full time childcare. My partner earns 22k and I earn 11k so we are not entitled to any benefits and have to live month to month. We won't be any better off with me back at work due to the fees, and have to pay even more come Sept when DS1 starts reception as we will have to pay for a childminder or breakfast club when his free hours finish.

Unfortunately my job is very inflexible with hours and working from home is impossible (school staff) so I'm completely stuck. Both DS's were born in May so we had to wait until he was 3.5 years to get any help at all (free nursery hours) and it will be the same for DS2.

This government makes life very difficult in terms of families with low/middling incomes if you are not entitled to extra help.

holidayhuntress Fri 06-Mar-20 13:05:13

Childcare can be brilliant for young children, but I think we start much too early in this country. It's heartbreaking to think of small babies in nurseries where with the best will in the world, they don't get the love and nurturing they need.

I know women need to be financially independent and secure which is why I think we need to better value caring roles, offer better maternity packages which includes pension contributions and national insurance top ups etc. I don't think offering more childcare funding which will come with a bunch of hoops anyway (term time, added extras by the nurseries who can't afford to stay open on gov funding, substandard care) at an earlier age is the solution here. Instead I think we need to radically overhaul how we as a society consider the unpaid yet crucial labour women (and some men but let's be honest, it's mostly women taking the hit) perform. If we valued it more and paid for it and truly saw child rearing as the worthwhile and vital labour it is, we would be much better off

Polkadotshot Fri 06-Mar-20 13:21:55

Anything in my opinion would make the world of difference. I think the way we live has changed I.e. need two incomes now to live how my parents lived off one income with 2 kids but the support structure isn't there to accommodate this. People have to work longer due to pension age increase so less help avaliable from grandparents, people on basic wage can't afford to work but can't afford not to work either and under pressure to work. yet we need people to keep on having children to support our aging population moving forwards. I think it needs looking at from a wider view point of why we are in this situation that parents can't afford to work. Yes any help that can be given would go a long way for your average person I.e Me! Childcare is ridiculously expensive because of the regulations, yes ratios etc are vital for safety but does a 1 year old need a curriculum? There is so much pressure on nurseries that I know several that have had to shut down as they can't afford to operate with current free childcare- no use giving more hours if you can't support it in the wider system. But yes please to 15 hours, anything is better than current nothing.

RachelM1234 Fri 06-Mar-20 14:42:53

I hope you don't mind me jumping in. I'm a journalist currently researching this exact topic for HuffPost UK. If you're a mum whose whole salary is going on childcare, or someone who has had to make career changes due to childcare costs (e.g. gone part-time or quit work because it's not financially worth it) I'd love to chat to you.

Email if you'd like to hear more details.

Booberella9 Fri 06-Mar-20 20:11:23

Agree it's a much wider, structural problem and a coherent big picture analysis is required.

YY to the unfairness of train season tickets for part time workers. So outdated and discriminatory. Why not have a multi trip card that can be loaded?

Salary not keeping pace with inflation is a huge problem. Nursery put their prices up by 5% in 2018 and 6% in 2019.. so the £12 I made in 2017 per day (after parking/train) got wiped out.

We also waited to try for 2nd child due to nursery costs. With the 30 free hours contribution (not actually free of course) we will be paying 1 half price place and 1 full price place. My wage was wiped out by 1 full price place so DH salary will have to cover the half price place. I really hope we can make ends meet. I actually haven't checked yet. confused I don't think I want to know actually.

Then of course there's wrap around care once they do start school.. can't even get my head around that yet. How about reforming schools (which are also totally outdated and structurally go against all the research on how to produce happy healthy confident adults).. have a day 8am to 6pm like nurseries, but with a much wider range of activities across arts, sports, music, pursuits like gardening and cooking, so the poor DC aren't shattered and frustrated after a day of sitting down being talked at. Literacy and numeracy are important of course but there is so much more to life.

So yes any financial contribution is welcome of course.

Has anyone made the connection to the death of tax credits? On TC we would have got £400 per month with me on stat mat pay, but under UC we got nothing.

chocodrops Fri 06-Mar-20 21:04:06

I think it's really unhelpful that it's always talked about as if it's the mothers wage which is going to cover childcare and if she's not earning more than care costs then there's no point in her going back to work! In reality childcare is another household cost like the rent and both parents should be responsible for it. But, it's women who are disproportionately affected economically by becoming a parent and this massively contributes to the outrageous gender pay gap.

Of course starting 15 hours a week earlier makes sense. More women in work makes sense. Not halting our careers completely or curtailing them by going part time makes sense.

I went back to work in January 2020 after 52 weeks off. I've been able to reduce my hours to 4 days a week - 3 days in nursery, 1 day split between DH and my mum (lucky us!). It's what I wanted and I feel the balance is right. Going back to work was a really positive decision for me, I'm a much better mum for working as well as parenting.

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