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He struggled to make it through the weekend only to spend it with his wife and child. “I hardly saw my daughter and I wasn’t there to provide my wife with the emotional support she needed – that’s a difficult thing to deal with,” he explains. “I’m thinking of some of my UT classmates who just became new parents and I hope something like this is in place soon.”
There’s also a financial benefit to parents working four days a week, particularly in the UK, where childcare costs have risen to second place in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), at the same time the cost of living has skyrocketed.
It was the financial losses of full-time childcare that prompted web application developer Jacques D’Arracot to request a reduction in working hours from his employer, Marketing Signals, which participated in the 4-day-a-week global beta. “It seemed ridiculous to send my son to daycare five days a week at the rates they were quoting,” he explains. “I was willing to take a 20 percent pay cut, but when I asked for it, they said they were on the pilot and I could take Thursday off with full pay.”
This had a huge effect when looking for nurseries near their home in Leeds – not only expanding the choice in childcare establishments, but also bringing down the day-to-day cost. Full-time childcare would have cost £70 to £80 ($84.70 to $96.80) per day, which added up to £400 per week. “We now pay £50 a day, which saves us £200 a week – basically £800 a month,” he says.
After 10 months of the new pattern behind him, he says he has a much stronger relationship with his young son. “I can’t imagine having the energy to interact with him and do everything we do together if I work out five days a week and commute two hours a day, like I used to,” he says. “I appreciate [that] I’ve restricted my options as to where I can work now, but I’m happy in my company and feel like I’m enjoying my life seven days a week now, not just two.”
UK parents desperately need more flexibility and support in the workplace. “The high cost of childcare restricts parents’ choices about who cares for the babies and children, often leading to mothers (and some fathers) cutting back their hours and/or taking jobs below their skill level, because that’s the only way to get everything done,” Jeremy says. “And saving for living expenses.” The number of women who don’t work so they can take care of a family rose 5 percent last year, the first sustained increase in at least 30 years.
“Having the option to take time off from the workplace to care for one’s children should not be a privilege reserved for mothers: we should all have that option. But we also need affordable, high-quality early childhood education,” says Davies. “We’re talking here about the essential infrastructure for a successful modern economy – as important as health care, education, roads and transportation.”