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

Published on 6 February 2023


The Single Parent Employment Challenge project explored single parents’ experiences of the UK labour market, as we emerged from pandemic restrictions from mid-2021. Focusing on those single parents who experienced unemployment during the pandemic, it looked at the routes that led to them becoming unemployed and to re-enter the workforce, their attitudes to and experiences of job-seeking and back-to-work support, the interaction of work plans and childcare, and the implications of the emerging cost of living crisis.

Key Findings

We found that single parents want to work, but experience consistently higher unemployment rates than couple parents. They also want to work more hours than they currently do and are frequently having to put their career aspirations aside to take on roles that better fit with childcare options and school hours. This means many are on lower incomes than they would otherwise be. It also means that at a time employers are struggling to fill vacancies, they are missing out on the potential of single parents, because of the way they structure roles.

While childcare costs are a key barrier for single parents in getting into work, single parents are being held back significantly by the shortfall of suitable flexible part-time roles, as well as a lack of tailored employment support from Jobcentre Plus.


On the basis of our findings, we have made a number of policy recommendations that would help bring down childcare costs, particularly for those on the lowest incomes or out of work, improve support from Jobcentre Plus for single parents trying to find work and that would help change the employment landscape so that more flexible and options for part-time working across all sectors becomes the norm.