Interim report: The Single Parent Employment Challenge – job loss and job seeking after the pandemic

Published on 10 March 2022

Gingerbread today published the interim research findings of The Single Parent Employment Challenge report, demonstrating that the current system of back to work support, the high cost of childcare and the lack of flexible jobs is preventing far too many single parents from moving into sustainable work after the pandemic.

The interim report looks at the experience and challenges for single parents who lost their job and are seeking work after the pandemic.  The research examines what led single parents to become unemployed and their experience of job seeking and back-to-work support.  Recommendations are targeted to those areas where immediate action would help single parents to move into work in the aftermath of the pandemic.  Our final report will be published in September 2022 and will contain longer term recommendations for government policy makers and employers.


Research published by Gingerbread highlights the experience unique challenges faced by single parents who lost their job and are seeking work after the pandemic.  The research involved qualitative interviews with 45 single parents, an analysis of the Labour Force Survey Data (by the Institute for Employment Studies) and an online (YouGov) survey of benefit recipients (spring 2021).

Key Findings

  • Single parents are almost twice as likely to be unemployed and underemployed, compared with couple parents. Long term (a year or more) unemployment has increased for single parents since the pandemic.
  • Single parent’s experiences of work during the pandemic were more precarious because they were more likely to have been furloughed and working in shut down sectors.
  • The reasons for leaving work differed to other groups, including higher rates of compulsory redundancy, leaving work due to additional challenges of trying to hold down a job and care on their own, reduced hours of work that could make a job financially unsustainable and mental health impacts of the pandemic.
  • The majority of single parents described a lack of bespoke support from the jobcentre. This was reinforced by the quantitative data that showed that (compared to coupled parents) they were less likely to have had their individual circumstances taken into account by their work coach including help to find a realistic job that fitted with their caring responsibilities and were less likely to have been encouraged to retrain or move into a new sector.   Single parents were unclear when they saw a job whether they would be financially better off in work.
  • Childcare costs and availability were a barrier to single parents re-entering work. This is combined with a decline in informal childcare from older relatives after the pandemic.  There was a lack of flexible jobs on offer with tough competition for roles during school hours.
  • Amongst the single parents who were interviewed only a handful had been referred to back to work schemes including Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) and Restart.  Those that had been on the schemes were positive but there was a lack of awareness about these schemes for single parents.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Targeted back into work support.
  2. Opportunities to retrain.
  3. Clearer better off in work calculations.
  4. Flexible work should be opened up.
  5. Childcare should be more available and affordable for single parents