Are your childcare policies supportive of working families?

Are your childcare policies supportive of working families?

The UK’s birth rate is showing a decline year on year, it hit a low in 2021 when the birth rate was the lowest since 1938 during the Great Depression. It has been speculated that Covid is the reason behind why people have stopped having babies, but the evidence of birth rates shows the large numbers of decline began in 2011, way before Covid.

What could be causing the decline?

Among other factors leading to this decrease, it is obvious that childcare is perhaps the most decisive and persistent factor to the decrease. Childcare costs are increasing, and state pension age is continuing to go up which could be contributing to the lack of support individuals can receive for family members because they are working for longer.

It can be assumed that women are normally at the lead of the decision of the decreasing birth rate as their predominant involvement in childcare continues to put them to sacrifice their career progression for flexible work arrangements. 

What support is there for working families?

The government implemented a policy allowing employees to request flexible working hours after 26 weeks service, if the organisation can accept this type of request, then this can help support working families.

The government delivered a scheme for working families for them to receive 30 hours of free childcare during term time weeks if they have children of pre-school age.

Although both schemes are more than welcome to working families, all the changes are still insufficient to alleviate the tensions between paid work and childcare that most parents are faced with.   

The reasons for this are first the flexible working is not obligated to be accepted by the organisation if it does not fit their requirements, this leaves the employee in the same position as before the flexible working request.  Secondly, pre-school age is from 3 years onwards, so the government scheme does not support the parent returning from maternity or paternity with a child under 3 years of age.  Also, the average full time working week is 37.5 hours per week, 48 weeks a year (excluding holidays) so the support of this scheme for 30 hours and in term time does not consider the overall cost and flexibility required for individuals to returning to work.

How can employers support working families?

The government are looking at making the flexible working request a day one right, why not look at this now and offer this policy available to all employees regardless of their length of service and consider meeting the demand for flexible working which, according Working Family’s Organisation is a desire shared by 86 per cent of working families.   

Similarly, organisations could consider childcare support including contribution towards childcare fees, vouchers or in-house facilities providing financial and emotional reassurance to working families.

If you need support to review your family policies or would like to know if you are doing all you can to support working families, contact us at the HR Experts.