How recruiters can help to solve the childcare crisis

The cost of childcare in the UK is among the highest in the world.

According to a new report from PwC, it represents nearly one third of a family’s income on average wages.

Recently announced subsidies might temporarily ease the cost burden, but critics say the scheme is limited, acting as more of a bandage than a lasting solution. In the UK, millions of people, including many parents, remain ‘locked out’ of employment due to their personal circumstances. This is a significant missed opportunity for Britain’s economy – and for the recruitment community. That’s why some recruiters are pushing for solutions to drive greater workforce inclusiveness. The question is: what do the best solutions look like? 

While supplementing childcare is essential, it’s not the end of the conversation. We should be able to work around our responsibilities, and flexibility of time and location are what enable talent to make the most impact at work today. Remote work can offer this flexibility, making it one of the most effective weapons in the battle against the childcare crisis. 

Consciously-designed remote work – that is, remote work with right training, tools and operational setup – enables parents to balance their job and family commitments without burning out. However, to unlock the full potential of this approach, a new kind of social and cultural infrastructure is required, one that is fit for the modern workforce.

Politicians and the media are fixated on the ‘home vs. office’ debate narrative. But we’ve been advocating for the development of family-friendly community workspaces that will enable parents to work remotely, outside of the home. That’s because robust life-work boundaries are so important for maintaining one’s mental and physical wellbeing. And, while many parents would and do readily risk burning out if it means they’re able to access work opportunities, why should anyone have to choose between their kids, livelihoods, and wellbeing? Community workspaces remove this dilemma by enabling a more healthy, flexible and family-oriented approach to balancing our lives and our jobs. 

The good news is that there has been recent progress towards this vision, with flexible work hubs emerging that now include onsite nurseries. One example is B_Together, a space that caters to the needs of working parents with child care assistance and educational programmes. For this to be an equitable solution, however, businesses must make these spaces more accessible by providing monthly stipends to cover membership costs. Otherwise, only a privileged few will be able to experience the benefits. Companies that already offer coworking stipends as a key benefit include Spotify, and HR tech unicorn Remote, making it a proven, tangible and effective business policy that recruiters can advocate for today.

I believe that hubs like B_Together are only the beginning, and soon governments will want to create community workspaces in rural and underserved areas. But it starts with more companies getting behind this approach and helping to unlock effective ‘third spaces’ for all workers via coworking stipends. That’s how we make consciously-designed remote work a reality at scale; through a collective effort from businesses, policymakers and individuals. 

By embracing remote work and developing family-focused community workspaces, the UK can take a meaningful step towards solving the childcare crisis. This would help to transform our culture's relationship with work into one that prioritises the flourishing of individuals, families and local areas. Parents will be able to balance their life and work commitments, reduce childcare costs and millions more people would be able to enter the workforce.

Recruiters play an important role in this effort. They’re seeing the impacts of the childcare crisis first-hand and encouraging their clients to put more supportive measures in place that will help them secure the best possible candidates. In doing so, recruiters are contributing to a more fair, healthy, and inclusive workforce. However, more action is needed. Our voices must be much louder if we're to drown out the protests of certain billionaires and politicians. Coworking stipends – in addition to the right to work remotely in the first place – will become a reality for everybody if enough people demand it. Then, maybe, just maybe, we'll create a future of work that actually works for everyone.

Ben Marks is founder and executive director of #WorkAnywhere Campaign

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