Working in an organisation that delivers care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, parents often find that combining work and family responsibilities can be very difficult.
Being able to access high-quality childcare that is both accessible and affordable is an integral part in maintaining work-life balance.
From April 2001 to 2004, £170 million was made available to fund 150 new nursery schemes offering 7,500 places, and also expand other forms of childcare.
However, on-site nurseries do not meet everyone’s needs and other forms of childcare may be more appropriate for some parents.
Information on the options available locally, either through the trust, Sure Start or privately, should be easily accessible for staff. It is important for parents working in the NHS to be aware of the variety of options for childcare that is available to them.
Employers can support their staff with childcare responsibilities and who want to continue working in a variety of ways:
- providing information and guidance on Government support available, for example tax credit system, voucher schemes and where to go for advice
- reviewing their working practices, for example moving towards family-friendly policies, flexible working options
- supporting childcare needs of their employees
liaising with and supplying information on the location of local nurseries and childminders
- provision of on-site nurseries where possible or PFI initiatives to provide nursery places locally.
A list of childcare and carer co-ordinators is available.
The majority of trusts have a childcare co-ordinator, and all staff in the NHS have access to a childcare co-ordinator within their local health economy, including GPs and their staff. The emphasis is now shifting to other forms of support for working parents such as after-school clubs, holiday play schemes, childminding networks and childcare vouchers.
Many trusts are now working with external childcare providers within the local health economy, wider community and private sector to provide support for working parents with children between the ages of 5 to 16.
There is a huge and increasing demand for before and after school clubs and for holiday play schemes. More trusts and local authorities are now addressing this issue and are providing holiday play schemes and before and after school clubs for children of school age.
All families with children can claim Child Tax Credit if their income is less than £67,000 a year. The amount awarded depends on your personal circumstances and an employee doesn’t have to be the child's parent to be eligible, but must be the person who has responsibility for the child.
If the employee has a baby under one year old or a child with a disability, they can receive extra help.
Find out more about child tax credits.
This is aimed specifically at working parents to help with the cost of registered and approved childcare, and can cover up to 80 per cent of childcare costs. If staff have one child in childcare they could receive up to £175 per week. With two or more children in childcare they could receive up to £300 per week.
Find out more about working tax credits.
This is a regular payment made to anyone bringing up a child or young person. It’s paid for each child that qualifies and isn’t affected by an individual’s income or savings.
For the eldest child in a family the current payment is £20.00 a week and £13.20 a week for each additional child.
Find out more about child benefit.
Please note that all figures quoted are correct at the time of publication, for more information and advice on tax credits and child benefit visit HM Revenue and Customs or contact the tax credit helpline on 0845 300 3900.
Childcare vouchers can be offered in addition to salary but are more commonly offered as a ‘salary sacrifice’. This means that a specific amount of salary is replaced by childcare vouchers.
From April 2006, childcare vouchers became tax and National Insurance exempt for up to £55 per week (£243 per month). Tax and NI contributions are only paid on the reduced level of salary received. This can save employees between £916 and £962, a higher-rate tax payer could save up to £1,195 per year, while the employer could save around £370 per year for each employee choosing childcare vouchers. Each employed parent can claim the exemptions, and a two-parent family could potentially save up to £2,392 per annum depending on individual circumstances.
Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act and Parental Leave Regulations in 2008 have increased the length of time employers must provide childcare vouchers to employees on maternity leave. If you receive childcare vouchers through your employer, you are entitled to continue receiving them during your maternity leave. This is true even if you are in a salary sacrifice scheme but have no salary to sacrifice (i.e. you only receive Statutory Maternity Pay).
This has been the case during Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and is now the case during Additional Maternity Leave (AML).
Find out more about these changes from the Government's Equalities Office or the Daycare Trust.
For babies born on or after 5th October 2008 employees are entitled to continue receiving childcare vouchers for weeks 1 to 26 (Ordinary Maternity Leave or OML) and then for weeks 27 to 52 (Additional Maternity Leave or AML).
Failure by employers to comply with the new legislation will leave them open to a claim of sex discrimination under the Equal Pay Act or the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations.
NHS Employers and their legal advisors have prepared a factsheet for NHS trusts covering the most frequently asked questions about the changes to the Sex Discrimination Act and Parental Leave Regulations.
Since 1 September 2004, all NHS bursary-funded students (new and continuing) who have dependent children have been able to apply for extra help with registered and approved childcare costs.
This new childcare allowance is paid as a supplement to the existing NHS funded bursary.
The childcare allowance is based on 85 per cent of the actual registered or approved childcare costs up to a maximum amount. For one child the maximum payable amount is £126.65 a week. For two or more eligible children the maximum payable is £187.75 a week.
However, every childcare allowance is calculated individually and the amount awarded will depend on individual circumstances and the income available to an individual and their family. To find out more see the NHS Students Bursary website or call their helpline on 0845 3586655.
The Women in Medicine Report made a number of recommendations to the NHS organisations on what they should be doing to support staff with caring responsibilities and in particular for doctors in training.
These recommendations included:
- Where rotational programmes are known in advance, both Postgraduate deaneries and lead employers (through their childcare coordinators) should liaise to ensure doctors in training have the information and support to secure an appropriate childcare provision plan.
- Childcare coordinators should wherever possible look to take a more planned approach to childcare provision.
- Trusts should appoint a childcare coordinator in their human resources department if they have not yet done so.
- Childcare coordinators should develop internet resources to act as both an information resource and message boards on local childcare options, including emergency cover.
- NHS trusts should engage with local authorities as key employers to ensure that local authorities fulfil their legal responsibility to ensure that the childcare needs of their population are met.
- Hospital based childcare should move to extended opening hours.