Rapid evidence assessment: parents' decisions about returning to work and child caring responsibilities

Research review

Newton B, Tamkin P, Gloster R, Cox A, Everett C, Cotton J |   | Department for Education | May 2018

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On behalf of the Government Equalities Office, IES conducted a rapid evidence assessment in early 2017 of parents' decisions on returning to work. 

The work was commissioned in the context of initiatives by the UK government on gender pay gap reporting and gender equality at work more widely. Caring responsibilities are cited as a significant barrier to women's pay and progression opportunities and, as long as women take disproportionate responsibility for childcare, pay differentials are likely to persist.

To address these issues, government introduced initiatives such as the extension of the right to request flexible working and free early education places for three and four year olds. Meanwhile, shared parental leave (SPL) aims to give parents more flexibility and more choice, though SPL is yet to deliver substantial change. 

This report contains the findings of IES' rapid evidence assessment, including the determining factors for the point at which parents choose to return to work. These include a child's age, levels of education and socio-economic status, lack of job/work flexibility and the availability, and extent, of parental leave. The report also considers the reasons why parents return to work. These tend to be even more complex though tend to be more financial in nature or adding meaning or a sense of fulfilment to one's life. Whether parents return to the same workplaces and roles, and what childcare arrangements are pursued, are also analysed in the report.