Childcare is a key requirement for both working parents and employers and it’s highly likely that the Covid19 crisis will cause a significant and fundamental change to childcare for the foreseeable future.
As schools and childcare providers prepare to reopen on 1st June, working parents should not be left to feel that managing childcare is solely their issue to resolve. It’s time for employers to take on some of the burden and to offer increased flexibility and support.
Everyone will be aware of just how excruciatingly expensive childcare is and how time-consuming it is to arrange and manage. Working parents account for 40% of the paid employment workforce in the UK, making a substantial contribution to the economy. Many rely on informal childcare arrangements to ensure they can meet their work commitments but with social distancing measures likely to be in place for the next 12-18 months and potentially longer, all of this needs to be rethought and it’s crucial that employers play their part too.
In this article, we take a look at three ways in which childcare arrangements will change and how employers can provide the support and guidance required, once the lock-down restrictions are eased.
No longer able to rely on informal childcare
Millions of parents in the UK rely on some form of informal childcare, such as grandparents, friends, neighbours or playdates. Due to social distancing rules, it’s highly unlikely that any of these options will be available in the short to medium term, which means parents are going to need to rely on more formal arrangements, which come at a cost.
It’s widely expected that most working parents will turn to formal childcare offered by schools to help out and this is likely to become the new norm for many months to come. However, the average weekly cost for an after-school club is £57 and given the increased demand, schools may ask for payments in advance.
A question remains over whether schools will remain open over the summer holidays or if the usual school holiday clubs and camps will be able to operate. One thing is for sure, demand for childcare during this period will be high and so will the cost.
Demand for an early years childcare place will increase
It’s safe to say that the early years care industry is taking a battering. Financial instability and a fall in demand have left many providers wondering whether they will be able to continue to operate as a business.
Childcare.co.uk recently surveyed approximately 2,400 nurseries and registered childminders, asking them whether the pandemic will result in them closing permanently or not. Unfortunately, 15.5% of UK providers responded that they are set to close permanently.
Demand for places has always high; the results from the Childcare survey would suggest a substantial reduction in the number of places available, resulting in some parents struggling to find the care their need.
The cost of childcare is set to rise
Working parents will need to rely on more formal childcare arrangements as the lock-down restrictions start to ease, informal and “free” childcare arrangements will no longer be available. In addition, the financial instability experienced by all early years providers and an expected increase in demand, will result in the price of childcare increasing.
In addition, nurseries are likely to start charging a deposit or increase any deposit that they already charge, adding to the financial burden.
So how can employers partner their employees to help manage their childcare arrangements and the costs?
First of all, companies need to be flexible and offer support, whenever and wherever it is needed. Being flexible with working hours/days, time off and generally providing support and guidance will be key. Every family is different and so are their childcare requirements and challenges.
Access to financial well-being tools and support is another step companies can take to support working parents. The Catapillr childcare and children’s activity calculator is free and simple to use and will help parents to organise their forthcoming childcare costs.
In terms of financial support, the Childcare Cash Advance Scheme is a workplace solution to help working parents with the upfront cost of childcare and children’s activities. The scheme provides a much-needed boost to help parents fund the childcare they need, manage their cash flow, and make the transition back to work, that little bit easier. The scheme is easy to set up for an employer, low cost and simple to manage.