The current financial climate has affected the availability as well as the type of childcare in many homes. With many families now spending more on part-time childcare than they do on the mortgage, finding flexible and cost effective childcare has never been more important.
When you add all the associated costs it is often far cheaper for a parent to stay at home which means that childcare providers lose out on a source of income potentially reducing their workforces.
Employers are also feeling the effect of these tough times as good and experienced staff leave to look after their children.
The key to resolving this particular dilemma is flexibility; flexibility not only on the part of the parents but also on the part of the childcare provider and employers alike.
Parents have to approach their childcare requirements with fresh eyes and consider the possibility of combining different forms of childcare and therefore different costs to achieve their desired outcome. For example, where a family previously employed a full-time nanny, alternatives could include sharing a nanny with another family, thereby sharing the cost, or using a nanny or child-minder to top and tail the day with the child spending the main part of the day at a nursery.
Employers could put into practice effective flexible working policies enabling parents to start later thus allowing them to take their children to nurseries and then commute into work. Many employers profess to have flexible working policies in place but more often than not this is merely window dressing and the cultural reality is that very few policies actually work, either because managers do not really believe they can work or because employees feel they aren’t being taken seriously.
The final point in the triangle is childcare providers. Many nurseries now have extended opening hours to allow parents to drop their children off early or pick them up later. Breakfast clubs and after school groups are a great idea and avoid the rush back home. They do however need to be provided at a reasonable cost to ensure they do not discourage parents in the first place. The more flexible a nursery, nanny or child-minder is prepared to be, the more attractive they are to parents who do not want or need the time restrictions or stress that is caused by trying to rush home. Providers also need to be flexible in their pricing allowing parents to only pay for what they need.
It takes all three sides of the triangle to work together to ensure that a parent can continue to work and find decent childcare for their children. Ultimately flexibility is the factor to ensure children receive the childcare they require and parents relieve themselves of the stress that combining work and childcare can create.
Thank you to Employees Matter speaker and director of Parental Choice, Sarah-Jane Butler, for this article.