Starting work

Date last updated: 28 January 2022

Back to work

Going back into work after a long gap, or working for the first time, can be exciting and daunting, and means big changes for both you and your children. With so many things to organise it’s natural to feel a bit anxious, but remember that as a single parent you’re already an experienced multitasker.

Taking things step-by-step, allowing yourself time to make decisions, and learning what works for other parents will make going back to work straightforward.

We can help you get the peace of mind you need to feel confident in your new job.

Will I be any better off?

Whether you’ll be any better off (or at least stay at the same level) is most parents’ biggest consideration when starting work. For most there will still be financial support available, so make sure you still get all the help you can for you and your family.

To check whether you’ll be better off in work you can get a ‘better off calculation’ to compare all your future in-work income with your current income. These calculations aren’t simple, and there are some things they might not take into consideration. Remember to factor in how much it will cost to travel to work, and any additional expenses such as clothes and food.

You can use the Turn2us online calculator to check what benefits and tax credits you’ll be entitled to, or call our helpline to get a better off calculation from our advisers.

Depending on the age of your children, you may no longer be entitled to free school lunches, so you’ll need to allow for this as well. Check with your local council to see if you still qualify.

What should I do about childcare?

Arranging childcare when you move into work can be a big challenge, especially if you need to use formal childcare for the first time. Choosing childcare is a big decision, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to think about it. The Family and Childcare Trust have lots of useful information on how to find childcare in your local area, and on how to choose a childcare provider.

You may already be receiving some free childcare which is provided by the government. Some two year-olds, and all three and four year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare, for 38 weeks a year. From September 2017, parents of three and four year-olds may be able to get 30 hours free childcare a week, check the childcare choices site to see if you are eligible for this.

If you’re claiming Universal Credit when you start work you can claim back up to 85% of your eligible childcare costs, see the childcare choices site for more details.

If you’re claiming an older benefit or tax credits, see the following pages:

What will I need on my first day?

Before you start work your employer should let you know what you need to take with you, either on your first day, or sometimes before. They are likely to ask you for:

• Proof of your identity
• Your national insurance number
• Your bank details
• Your P45 (if you have one).

If you’ve been claiming jobseekers allowance or employment support allowance you should be issued with a P45. If you don’t have a P45 your employer will need to complete a starter checklist to make sure you pay the right amount of tax.

There is more information on tax when starting a job on the HMRC website. If you can’t find your national insurance number you can contact HMRC and they will find it for you.

Employment trainer, Meena, talks about key things single parents should consider before going back to work, including the impact on your benefits and tax credits, childcare options and planning for emergencies.

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Getting support from others

You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents who have been through similar changes. Joining a group, like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in our online forums can be helpful and supportive. There are forum threads on both full-time and part-time work.

Who do I need to tell?

Starting work will affect your benefits and tax credits entitlements, and there are number of organisations you will need to tell about your new job.

Who to tell that you've started work

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