The headline of a recent Times news article was Britain has a childcare crisis. The over-riding theme of the article was about how working parents struggle to find, arrange and pay for childcare.
It’s true, the cost of childcare is crippling for many families and often cited as the main barrier preventing women in returning to work. The average cost of a part-time nursery place, for an under 2 in the UK, based on a survey conducted by Coram Family & Childcare Trust, is £6,600 a year and over £9,100 in London, which is the equivalent to University tuition fees.
In this article, we consider a number of alternative ways that employers could help with childcare and put forward a real workable alternative to help fix the current childcare crisis in Britain.
1) Take your baby to work
In the UK, approximately 600,000 women each year take maternity leave and so they should. However, it’s estimated that 25% do not return to work, which leaves their employer with the task and cost of recruiting a replacement.
A survey from the department of education found that 870,000 women in England wanted to return to work but couldn’t due to a combination of issues with the arrangement and affordability of childcare.
So, could bringing your baby to work be the answer?
This idea has been put forward numerous times. However, this option raises many questions about the practicality of having babies at work, not least about how this type of arrangement would actually work, the age when a baby would be considered too old and if your colleagues would want to sit next to a baby all day, whilst trying to work. The answer to the last point is probably not and hence why I feel that the idea has failed to gain any traction in the UK.
2) A compulsory workplace creche
If a take your baby to work policy is not the answer, could a compulsory workplace creche, for companies above a certain number of employees, be the solution for working parents?
According to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, only 5% of employers offer a workplace creche. The creche is either provided by the company themselves or outsourced to a local nursery, for them to operate but the key element is that it is onsite. The close proximity helps to make parents feel happier at work, which boosts retention rates and helps to increase employee engagement.
Whilst a workplace creche is not a new idea the compulsory element is.
However, there is an issue with the cost involved in providing a creche and who should pay for it. Under the rules of a compulsory scheme, would the employer be expected to provide the creche as a free service or would it be subsidised and to what level? Is the extra cost something that an employer would want to take on? or could the Government offer support in terms of tax breaks?
In practice, childcare provisions are usually set up in places to be as convenient for parents to access as possible, with generally little involvement from employers.
3) The Childcare Cash Advance Scheme
If allowing parents to bring their babies to work is impractical and providing a workplace creche is expensive, could a new voluntary employee benefit be the answer?
The Childcare Cash Advance Scheme is the brainchild of Catapillr founder Phil Robinson. The scheme operates in a similar manner to that of an employer travel loan i.e. interest-free and repayable within a maximum of 12 months and has been designed to enable employers to once again use a childcare benefit to retain and attract employees, at a minimum cost.
Why use C-CAS?
The C-CAS scheme is a new voluntary employee benefit. It helps to retain employees and hence reduce recruitment time and cost. The closure of the childcare voucher scheme has severely limited the options available, to use childcare support, as a way of attracting new members of staff.
What exactly is C-CAS?
The scheme is essentially an online account, mobile app and marketplace. Support is provided in the form of an interest-free 12-month loan, which is paid into an online account, to be used specifically for childcare costs.
How long does the loan last?
The interest-free loan is to be repaid over a maximum of 12 months, but the money does not need to be used within the year, which means your employees can build up a balance to pay for all those unexpected childcare costs.
What can the scheme be used for?
A key attribute of the scheme is flexibility. The scheme can be used with Ofsted (or equivalent) registered childcare providers or companies/organisations who provide childcare activities, such as after-school & holiday clubs, sports & activity clubs, as well as tutors. In addition, funds can be transferred into the Government’s Tax-Free childcare account, if applicable.
How easy is it to set up?
The scheme can be set up very quickly and easily, by signing a business agreement with Catapillr. The scheme requires zero software integration and very little on-going administration.