Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Busy Bees Benefits Maintains Quality Management Standard


Employee benefits provider, Busy Bees Benefits is delighted to have maintained its ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard.

ISO 9001 is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, leadership, internal processes, effective decision making and continual improvement.

Maintenance of the standard demonstrates Busy Bees Benefits’ commitment to customers, ensuring they receive good quality service which is clear and consistent.

The company was audited in February 2013 by an independent certification body which confirmed that the company’s quality management system is working.

John Woodward, MD of Busy Bees Benefits, said: “Great customer service has always been at the heart of the Busy Bees ethos. Maintenance of this standard shows that our staff understand current and future customer needs, meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations. The results of our recent customer survey also bear this out. We provide employee benefits to over 5000 organisations and 99.5% of respondents said they were happy with the customer service they received. We are proud of this achievement and will continue to do everything we can to provide the best possible service.”

For further information, please visit www.busybeesbenefits.com

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Childcare Voucher Provider Suggests Simple Childcare Funding Changes



 The UK is eagerly awaiting an announcement by the government about plans to change the childcare funding parents can receive towards their childcare costs.  With UK childcare being amongst the most expensive in the world, costing some parents up to a third of their household income, there is a definite need to reform the current funding systems.

There has been a lot of speculation about what from any funding changes would take and how the government will go about introducing these.  Changes may range from tax breaks for parents, new voucher schemes and extending the amount of free nursery hours for children.  The main reason the government is looking at making changes is to rebalance the help parents receive with their childcare costs and to give parents the incentives to go to work. 

Childcare Vouchers are currently the most popular method of saving money on childcare costs, helping more than 500,000 working parents nationwide.  The Childcare Voucher scheme is simple and free for the government to administer as it is ran by independent providers such as Busy Bees Benefits.  The question to ask therefore is, ‘Why is the government suggesting spending money on introducing a new system when the current Childcare Voucher scheme is a current success?’

In a recent survey by Busy Bees Benefits, 1 in 3 parents* believed the provision of Childcare Vouchers influenced their decision to return to work or remain with their employer after having a family.  The current Childcare Voucher scheme ensures that parents use only registered providers, making regular checks to certify their registration, ensuring the safety of using a particular provider and the quality of care children will receive.

Therefore, making some simple changes to the current Childcare Voucher scheme could be the answer to making childcare more affordable and the easiest to implement as the system already exists.  Busy Bees Benefits has suggested the government should:
  • Increase the cap on Childcare Vouchers.  Working parents are currently allowed to exchange up to £55*** per week from their salary for Childcare Vouchers.  Busy Bees Benefits are running a campaign to increase the allowance to £75*** to increase the savings parents can make and as such make childcare costs more affordable.
  • Extending Childcare Vouchers to self-employed parents would allow more parents to receive help with their childcare costs.  This would allow self-employed parents to receive the same amount of support as parents in employment.  The scheme could be easily adapted with minimal administration changes.
  • Increase access to the scheme.  Employees should have a ‘right to request’ which would mean employers have to offer the scheme.
  • Allowing working parents on National Minimum Wage to also use Childcare Vouchers.  The current scheme does not allow employees to take vouchers if by doing so they would fall below National Minimum Wage levels, therefore those already earning National Minimum Wage are not eligible to use Childcare Vouchers.  Extending the scheme to those on National Minimum Wage would enable thousands more parents to save money on their childcare costs.  The current ruling takes away their choice to sacrifice salary for Childcare Vouchers.  Often women having a break from work, through having a family, take low-paid jobs to get back into employment.  This is the time when they will need to use childcare to enable them to progress in their career.  However, without the financial support they would get with Childcare Vouchers, many find this harder as childcare costs are so high.
John Woodward, CEO of the Busy Bees Group, said “The Childcare Voucher system is the most effective way of helping working parents to save money.  The current Childcare Voucher scheme is not bureaucratic and could easily be extended to allow working parents to save more.  We understand the importance of providing quality childcare, therefore, supporting parents to enable them to choose the childcare their children require is important and helping to make it more affordable is imperative to encouraging parents back into work.”

The current Childcare Voucher scheme has not changed since 2006, the £55*** per week cap has not increased during this time, even though childcare costs have continued to rise.  The Busy Bees Benefits ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign is being supported by other Childcare Voucher providers and aims to persuade the government to increase the allowance to £75*** per week which would see parents being able to save over £300*** more per year on the cost of their childcare.  To support the campaign an e-petition can be signed here - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31669.

For more information about childcare vouchers and the Busy Bees campaign visit www.busybeesbenefits.com

Ends

Notes
 *Busy Bees Benefits customer survey November 2012.
***Subject to individual circumstances



Monday, 18 February 2013

Time Is Running Out To Make A Difference



The soaring cost of childcare has been stopping parents from seeking work as the UK continues to have some of the most expensive childcare in the world.  Recent reports have found that in some cases childcare costs can account for a third of household incomes*.  As a result 38%** of parents have even considered quitting their current job and 12%** have actually left their job because of childcare costs. 

Childcare and the cost of childcare are high on the government’s agenda at present.  77% of respondents from the latest Mumsnet survey think that the government doesn’t do enough to support parents with the cost of childcare**.  Busy Bees Benefits aims to change this with their ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign.

The campaign was launched in 2012 to make childcare costs more affordable for working parents.  The aim is to increase the support parents get with childcare costs which will in turn help more parents back into work.  The campaign is calling for the government to raise the weekly amount working parents can exchange for Childcare Vouchers from £55 to £75.  At the heart of the campaign is an e-petitionon the HM Government E-petitions website which has already attracted over 17,000 signatures.  The petition will close on 21st March 2013.

The main aim of the campaign is to bridge the gap between the rising cost of childcare and the amount of salary parents can exchange for Childcare Vouchers, which has not changed since 2006. Childcare costs have continued to rise during this time whilst inflation and other financial pressures have continued to make it more difficult for families to balance their budgets.

Childcare Vouchers are a simple and popular employee benefit as they attract tax and National Insurance savings of up to £933 per parent, per year from the cost of childcare.  Parents find Childcare Vouchers a valuable method of paying their childcare costs for children up to the age of 16.  In a recent customersurvey by Busy Bees Benefits, 1 in 3 parents*** believe the provision of Childcare Vouchers influenced their decision to return to work or remain with their current employer after having a family.

John Woodward, MD of Busy Bees said “It is imperative that parents are able to work and choose the quality childcare they want for their children without costs being a huge financial burden.  We want to make a difference to families, raising the Childcare Voucher cap will provide parents with additional savings, making their childcare costs more affordable.  Parents can play their part in helping themselves and others to save money by supporting the ‘Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap’ campaign.

How Much Can Parents Save?
Raising the cap to £75 will make a real difference for working parents.  Basic rate tax payers could save over £300 more per parent, per year, totalling over £1200 per year, depending on individual circumstances.  Both parents in a household can join a Childcare Voucher scheme via their employer, potentially doubling savings to more than £2400 per year.
John said “The Childcare Voucher system is the most effective way of helping working parents save money. The current Childcare Voucher scheme is not bureaucratic and could easily be extended to allow working parents to save more, without a huge overhaul of government childcare funding.”

How Can You Help?
Time is running out, the e-petition closes on the 21st March 2013 and for the issue to be eligible for debate in the House of Commons 100,000 signatures are required.  Help Busy Bees Benefits to make a difference by:

1- If you haven’t already signed the e-petition, please do so now.  You can help further by asking friends and family to do the same. 
2- Send a personalised letter to your local MP. A template can be found here http://www.busybeesbenefits.com/downloads/campaign_letter.pdf.  Alternatively, Busy Bees Benefits has developed an online tool to enable you to send an email directly to them. This can be found at http://www.busybeesbenefits.com/misc/MP_output.php 

For more information about the campaign, visit www.busybeesbenefits.com.  

*** Busy Bees Benefits Customer Survey November 2012
1 Subject to individual circumstances.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Make Sure Your Childcare Voucher Scheme Remains Valid



Employee benefits provider, Busy Bees Benefits is helping its customers to get ready for the new financial year and meet HMRC rules by providing them with an updated, electronic Basic Earnings Assessment (BEA) to complete. Failure to confirm the BEA for each member of staff can result in the employer’s scheme being invalidated and there will be no entitlement to tax relief.

The rationale of the change two years ago was that income tax savings would be the same across all tax bands, and therefore fairer. The amount of vouchers each employee can exchange therefore depends on their tax band. Parents who joined the Childcare Voucher scheme after April 2011 can only exchange the maximum amount of £243 per month or £55 per week if they are Basic Rate Taxpayers.

The employer is required to confirm whether the individual employee is a basic, higher or additional rate tax payer and if their Childcare Voucher order is in line with the amount they are able to claim. Busy Bees Benefits responded swiftly to HMRC’s changes by developing its operating system to ask employees to complete an electronic basic earnings assessment. Employees are asked to input their tax code, gross income and details of any other salary sacrifice schemes they use. The system instantly assesses whether the individual is a basic, higher or additional rate tax payer and ensures the correct amount of Childcare Vouchers are requested. The employer receives an email which asks them to confirm the assessment or provide the necessary amendments. The system also provides an online storage system so these details can be readily retrieved when required. All employers are obliged to prove that they check Basic Earnings Assessments annually.

The other check that employers need to make is to ensure that no employee breaches National Minimum Wage levels. Busy Bees Benefits has again used its innovative system to deliver full compliance.

A leading European IT company said of the system “Since joining Busy Bees we’ve made significant cost savings, and the online account management means that time savings have been made for our HR and Payroll colleagues.”

Protected Rights

Employees who were registered on a Childcare Voucher scheme before 6th April 2011 and have taken at least one deduction for Childcare Vouchers in each tax year since then, can still order the full allowance of £243 per month, whatever their earnings. Changing voucher provider will not affect employees’ protected rights. Changing employer, other than TUPE transfers, will mean they lose their rights. Busy Bees Benefits informs employees with protected rights if they have not ordered Childcare Vouchers during that tax year to ensure they do not lose their full entitlement.

For further information, please visit www.busybeesbenefits.com

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mind the Gap - Raise the Cap: Help Now To Make Childcare More Affordable



The “Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap” campaign, launched last year by childcare voucher provider Busy Bees Benefits, aims to raise the maximum weekly amount a working parent can exchange for childcare vouchers from £55 to £75. The e-petition at the heart of the campaign has already attracted over 17,600 signatures. The petition will close on 21st March, 2013.

The main aim of the campaign is to bridge the gap between the rising cost of childcare and the amount of salary parents can exchange for childcare vouchers, which has not changed since 2006. Childcare costs have continued to rise during this time whilst inflation and other financial pressures have continued to make it more difficult for families to balance their budgets.

In a recent customer survey by Busy Bees Benefits, 29.1% of childcare providers who responded said they didn’t know if they supported the campaign. 64.8% of respondents said they had not signed the e-petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31669.

Childcare vouchers are a popular and simple employee benefit as they are non-taxable, National Insurance exempt and they help working parents save money on the cost of childcare.  Operated as a salary sacrifice scheme, working parents can exchange part of their salary, currently up to £55 per week, for childcare vouchers which can be used to pay for any registered childcare for children up to the age of 15. 

John Woodward, MD of Busy Bees said “It is important that childcare providers play their part in helping parents to save money by supporting the “Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap” campaign and telling parents that they should ask their employer about the childcare voucher scheme. The scheme provides essential financial support for many working parents who want to access quality care for their children. Our recent survey* showed that 1 in 3 parents who responded were influenced in their decision to return to work by the provision of childcare vouchers.”

How Much Can Parents Save?

Raising the cap to £75 will make a real difference for working parents.  Basic rate tax payers could save over £300 more per parent, per year, totalling over £1200 per year, depending on individual circumstances.

Both parents in a household can join a childcare voucher scheme via their employer, potentially doubling savings.

Simple and Effective

The childcare voucher system is the most effective way of helping working parents save money. The current Childcare Voucher scheme is not bureaucratic and could so easily be extended to allow working parents to save more. What’s more, the scheme gives parents the flexibility to choose the best form of childcare for their child.

How Can Childcare Providers Help?

1.    If you haven’t already signed the e-petition, please do so now. The deadline is 21st March 2013. You can help further by asking staff and parents to sign it too.

2.    Send a personalised letter to your MP. A template can be found at http://www.busybeesbenefits.com/downloads/campaign_letter.pdf
Busy Bees Benefits has developed an
online tool to enable you to send an email directly to them. This can be found at http://www.busybeesbenefits.com/misc/MP_output.php

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Half Term Activities - How Parents Can Save Money



Half term is almost here and although this is one of the shorter of the school holidays, many parents find the week an expensive time.  If parents are unable to take time off work, they may need to access childcare, activity clubs or out of school activities for their children.

School holidays can be an opportunity for children to experience new activities.  Allowing children to attend activity clubs and holiday schemes will help them to engage with new people, take part in events and develop new skills. The sticking point, however, can be the cost.

Working parents can use childcare vouchers to help pay for such activities.  Although the majority of parents use childcare vouchers to pay for registered childcare for pre-school children, such as nurseries, nannies, au pairs or childminders, the vouchers can also be used for older children to pay for things like out of school clubs and activity camps. Parents should always check before booking that the provider accepts payment with childcare vouchers.

How can parents access childcare vouchers and how do they work?

1.    Childcare vouchers are available to working parents via their employer. Childcare vouchers are a benefit, not a right, and so parents must ask their employer to provide them. The scheme will not be a cost to the employer and could save them around £400 per year per employee on the scheme.

2.    If the employer agrees to provide childcare vouchers, parents simply register to the scheme, telling their employer how much they would like to deduct from their wages each week or month in return for the vouchers.

3.    Parents can currently exchange up to £243 per month, depending on individual circumstances.

4.    The amount exchanged for vouchers is deducted from the employee’s wages and no tax and National Insurance is taken. Parents then pay their childcare provider with the vouchers. Through taking childcare vouchers, parents can save up to £933 per year on the cost of their childcare.

5.    Childcare vouchers can be used to pay any registered childcare provider for children up to the age of 16.

Can parents save more?

Busy Bees Benefits is campaigning to raise the weekly childcare voucher allowance from £55 to £75 per week to help parents save more on the cost of their childcare.  Raising the cap will increase savings per parent to over £1200 per year.  If you want to save more, sign the e-petition to help persuade the government to increase the cap. The e-petition currently has over 17,000 signatures and closes on 21st March 2013.