Starting work for the first time or getting back into work after a gap can be exciting, but also daunting. It’s likely to bring a change in routine for your family. With so many things to manage, it’s natural to feel a bit anxious. But remember: as a single parent, you’re already an experienced multitasker.
Taking things step-by-step, giving yourself plenty of time to make decisions, and learning what works for other parents will help make going back to work a success.
Here are our top tips.
Do your research
Some types of jobs and industries are more suited to working parents, so it’s wise to do your research. Looking at a company’s website, social media and employee reviews on Glassdoor can help you see whether it’s good for flexible working.
Choose the right fit
Make sure you’re applying for jobs that suit your family’s needs. Think about things like working hours and place of work – and whether you’ll be able to take time off during school holidays, for example. See our page on flexible working for more.
Prepare your kids
If they’re old enough, it’s good to sit down with your children and talk about how daily routines will be different with your new job. Handled well, bringing a new job into the picture can be an adventure for the whole family.
Know your rights
Knowing what you’re entitled to – in terms of things like flexible working and time off – can make it much easier to plan and have productive conversations with your employer. The Working Families charity has lots of useful information about your rights at work.
Think ahead about childcare
Arranging childcare can be one of the biggest challenges in starting a new job. Especially if you need to use formal childcare for the first time, which can be expensive and hard to find. You might want to ask your employer for flexible hours to help balance your new job and with your children.
Our page on childcare has more about who can get free childcare and help with childcare costs. If you’re on Universal Credit when you start your new job, you might be able to claim up to 85% of your childcare costs. And if you’re getting Working Tax Credit, you can claim up to 70% of these costs.
Plan for emergencies
It’s no fun getting a last-minute call to say your child is sick, their school is closed or your childminder is unwell. Having a back-up emergency plan will help you feel more in control if you need to work and look after your child
For example, could you work from home if your children are old enough to entertain themselves and not distract you? Do you have family or friends living nearby who could help out? Could other parents help you, or pass on their tips for emergency childcare? Could you pay for a last-minute babysitter – someone you’ve used before, or who comes highly recommended by someone you trust?
You are entitled to unpaid time off to deal with a childcare emergency. See our page on your right to time off work for more.
Make sure it’s worth it financially
Most people work for the money this brings, so it’s worth making sure you’ll be better off financially with your new job. Or at least no worse off, depending how this will affect any benefits you’re getting.
To check whether you’ll be better off in work you can use a ‘better off calculator’. This will compare your future with your current income – and also check how changes in your household budget might affect your income.
Manage any benefits you’re on
If you’re on benefits, you’ll need to let the relevant office know when you start your new job. This might change the benefits you can get. It’s important to make sure you’re still getting all the help you can for you and your family.
Some benefits will reduce or stop once you start work – such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and Support with Mortgage Interest. Your council might give you an extra 4 weeks extended payment of all of them at your current rate. You don’t have to claim for this – your council will decide and let you know.