According to Workingmums.co.uk's most recent annual survey, 16% of mums pay over £500 a month. Many are looking to cut back as a result of tax credit cuts. Grandparents are a favoured option. Some 43% of working mums make use of grandparents for childcare needs and pay nothing for childcare. However, many parents don't live close to relatives or cannot rely on them. Polls of working parents show that tax credit cuts are having a big impact. Almost a quarter of mums told a Workingmums.co.uk poll in May that they have been forced to stop working because of changes to tax credits.
The survey of over 320 mums found 24% said they had stopped working as a result of changes to tax credits which came in in April. Sixteen per cent had reduced their hours and 22% had increased their hours. Only 29% said the changes had not affected how they worked.
The Daycare Trust says further cuts are envisaged. Many of the mums polled are desperate to work. One said: “I've had to quit work as I can't afford the childcare. I now have no disposable income.”
One way round the tax credit cuts is vouchers. An increasing number of employers are offering childcare vouchers and these can offset up to £1,000 a year in childcare costs. However, many who qualify are missing out on savings due to misunderstandings about how they work. Men, for instance, often don't realise that they can claim childcare vouchers through their work. They assume that only the mother can claim.
With new legislation coming into effect this year regarding additional paternity leave, more firms are looking to engage more proactively with dads. This could lead to greater attempts to get them to claim benefits such as vouchers.
Other signs which point to an increasing role for childcare vouchers include the premium companies place on talent attraction. Research consistently shows that the leading firms of tomorrow will be those which can attract and keep the best staff.
As more and more families are counting the pennies, childcare vouchers will become increasingly valued in recruitment and retention strategies. Workingmums.co.uk's research shows childcare costs are one of the top three concerns of women returning to work after having children. If companies want to attract and keep the most talented staff, they will need to wake up to the issues that make a significant impact to their current and potential employees.
These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.