Childcare – What Employers And Employees Need To Know… Employee Childcare Regulations
The rules around employee childcare are notoriously sensitive area for employers. They have come to reflect the significant changes to lifestyles and legislation in recent decades. A lead consultant at HR and
employment law consultancy, ELAS, discusses the range of employee childcare options available to both employers and employees
Demographic changes, increased protection for employees and changing expectations from workers combine to confuse employers about the subject. This translates into a reluctance to speak about the effects of employee childcare and how it affects your staff. They may fear breaking the rules or causing problems within the workplace. However, the reality is that the issue of employee childcare is governed by relatively straight-forward legislation, and
incorporating strong policies around childcare can deliver great benefits for businesses, such as; boost staff retention, reduce absenteeism and improve performance, all of which can potentially decrease costs to the business. Rising Birth Rate And Its Impact
As of December 2015, the
Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that women in the UK are giving birth to an average 1.9 children each, significantly higher than other advanced European economies. The figure rose by 12 per cent between 2003 and 2013. This put the UK higher than all other European economies, except France and Ireland. As the majority of these children are in working households, employers need to be aware issues surrounding employee childcare entitlement.
If discussed at the interview stage, there are considerable risks for businesses. They occur with how the subject is discussed and the kinds of questions that are asked. Similarly, with current employees, it’s very likely that a staff member will approach management or HR and say, “I need to ask something – it’s about my kids…”
Clarity and Legislation
The uncertainty around childcare should therefore be countered by robust policies. These should allow employees and employers alike to feel confident about their legal entitlements. This should also allow employees to make informed choices about their careers and, in return, achieve their goals in the workplace.
The first point around employee childcare begins with maternity/paternity and shared parental leave. Since 2015,
shared parental leave legislation means that employees in the UK have a statutory right to share up to 12 months leave. This gives parents the ability to exchange leave between them to best suit them. For example, if a mother is the main earner she may return to work whilst the father takes more leave. Similarly, flexible working legislation allows workers the right to request flexible working ( not the right be given it). This can prove to be suitable for some businesses and their employers.
Emergency leave legislation covers situations where a carer has let down the employee. It also covers if the child gets sent home from school. In these instances, parents have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to arrange alternative childcare or to cover it themselves as a last resort. However, this should be used in emergency situations only.
There is also a range of options for financing childcare through statutory government schemes. These can finance all, or part, of certain childcare periods. For example, 15 hours free childcare a week is available for children over the age of three, while some childcare costs can be offset through child tax credit schemes. Perhaps more significantly for employers, there is the option for a childcare voucher scheme. Although not legally required to offer this
benefit to employees, statistics from the PMI Health Group’s 2014 Employee Benefits Index suggests that its popularity among employees continues to rise year-on-year. Conclusion
As we have seen, a whole host of legal requirements and frameworks exist on the issue of employee childcare. These are designed to give clarity to employers and employees, reflect the changing demands of both family and work life in the 21st century, and to make sure that businesses and workers receive the support they need to balance work and parenting duties