Thursday, 3 January 2013

1 In 3 Parents Say Childcare Vouchers Influenced Their Return To Work


Recruitment and retention are high on the agenda for any employer, and the latest customer survey by Busy Bees Benefits has shown that the provision of a childcare voucher scheme can make a big difference to this issue for businesses.

When asked “Do you believe the provision of childcare vouchers influenced your decision to return to work or remain with your current employer after you had a family?” 32.1% of respondents answered “yes”.

Childcare vouchers are fast becoming a “must have” for working parents and as employees generally change jobs more often than they once did, they are more aware of benefits other than just salary and are willing to pick and choose their next move according to the overall package on offer.

One parent responding to the Busy Bees Benefits survey said “I actually changed jobs to an employer who offered the scheme as it makes such a financial difference that it makes returning to work much more viable”. Another commented “I would be concerned if I changed job and they didn’t have a childcare voucher scheme.”

Many parents, especially mums, having made the decision to go back to work, do so part-time after maternity leave, often due to the cost of full-time childcare. One mum responding to the Busy Bees Benefits survey said “I wanted to go back to work part time and my employer didn’t do the vouchers initially, but I set it up with them and it has allowed me to go full time.”

John Woodward, MD at Busy Bees Benefits said “It is often left to parents to bring the benefits of childcare vouchers to the attention of employers, but organisations who have a scheme in place and tell their staff about it are much more likely to retain working parents, maintaining the knowledge base the company has developed and saving money on recruitment. The childcare voucher scheme also saves money for employers, who do not have to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on the portion of salary sacrificed by the employee. Companies can save just over £400 per year for every employee who uses the scheme to pay towards their childcare.”

The provision of childcare vouchers doesn’t only help parents to return to work when their children are very young and they need a nursery, nanny, au pair or childminder. The vouchers can be used to pay for care for older children, allowing working parents to maintain and build on their skills. As one parent commented: “I had to return (to work) anyway, but it has definitely helped and I now feel able to use after-school clubs, enabling me to train in my profession.”

The survey also revealed that many parents are frustrated by the amount they are able to sacrifice from their salary in return for childcare vouchers: “They helped me to be able to afford to come back to work. More help from the government would have been nice, though.” Another said “I do find the Government allowance too small against ever-rising childcare costs”.

Busy Bees Benefits is currently lobbying the government to provide more help. Its campaign “Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap” was launched last year with the intention of persuading the government to raise the maximum allowance from £55 to £75 per week. The £55 cap was set by the government in 2006 and has not altered since. As childcare costs have continued to rise, inflation and other financial pressures have made managing family budgets more of a challenge. Raising the cap will make a real difference to working parents, saving over £300 more per year, or a total of over £1200 per parent, per year for basic rate taxpayers. It will also help employers attract more parents into work, retain talented staff and help businesses make further savings.

Busy Bees Benefits has an online petition at the heart of the campaign which can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31669
Benefits such as childcare vouchers have become essential in making organisations an employer of choice. Employers need to consider them an essential part of their offering to staff. A current Busy Bees Benefits customer summed it up perfectly: “The provision of childcare vouchers is definitely something I would look for in future employee benefits.”

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