The “2015 Annual Holiday Childcare Cost Survey” from The Family and Childcare Trust shows the average cost of a week’s childcare now stands at a hefty £123.49, having risen 7.8 per cent in the last year.
Not only that, but the research also shows that 87 per cent of English and 95 per cent of Welsh local authorities do not have adequate provision to meet the demand from parents. This leaves working parents grappling with the problem of finding affordable childcare options until the schools return in September. But there are measures that employers can put in place to help.
Make useful information available to employees
Information about the different childcare options is available but it’s often dispersed. Local authorities’ Family Information Services, schools, libraries and community centres will all advertise holiday clubs and schemes that might be of interest. Businesses can lend a hand by making this information readily accessible in one place, such as on an office noticeboard or intranet.
Know what help employees are entitled to, and help them claim it
Staff that worked for their employer for more than one year can ask for unpaid parental leave to help cover childcare during the school holidays. This leave should be requested 21 days in advance, though of course companies can choose to be more lenient on how early it needs to be booked. Companies should help staff by processing these requests promptly and ensuring that adequate cover is put in place.
Flexible working: hours
The traditional 09:00 to 17:00 is no longer the accepted norm and for many parents during the summer holidays, fixed office hours are impractical. For example, some workers might find that they get more done after their children have gone to bed or early in the morning. Businesses that allow workers the freedom to be flexible with their hours will find their staff happier and more productive.
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Flexible Working: location
Flexible working is not synonymous with home working and for many parents working at home is inconvenient and unproductive. Professional workspaces are available in most towns and cities, and for many, simply working in a location closer to home, and cutting out the commute, will make a big difference. By giving workers access to professional workspaces, employers are safe in the knowledge that their staff are in a safe, ergonomic environment with the necessary tools and technology.
Stay in touch
Make sure that staff have everything they need to stay productive and communicative during the summer break. Using programs like DropBox, Skype and Google Docs, for example, can help make sure they have access to all the documents and information required.
It’s important to stay in touch too. Setting up catch up calls between workers and their line managers at least weekly will mean staff don’t become isolated.
The summer break causes a childcare problem for most parents. Companies that actively try to help their staff overcome these challenges are likely to win their gratitude and likely see an impact on morale and loyalty.
Offering the opportunity for flexible working can go a long way to help. Indeed many companies are already embracing flexible working all year round and are reaping the benefits. For those companies that have yet to do so, the summer period is the perfect time to start.
Richard Morris is UK CEO of global workspace provider Regus.
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