The issue of rising childcare costs is one many of us can relate to and has been vastly reported in the media this year. Most recently, research conducted by CentreForum confirmed that British childcare is among the most expensive in the world with childcare costs coming in at double the global national average – now that’s a number not to ignore!
It’s caused me to think about what this means for the future of Britain’s workforce. How will individuals and families learn to manage ever increasing childcare costs whilst continuing to earn money? Will employers be more understanding of the demands we face in our personal lives? Too many people are faced with the impossible dilemma of whether to give up work and become a full-time parent, or continue providing for their family but spend most of their hard-earned money on childcare. It’s a near impossible scenario that will leave families, and employers, unsure of where they stand.
The truth is, there is no single, correct answer, instead there are various initiatives and programmes designed to help in different ways. Just last week I read an article mentioning a new scheme to provide additional childcare vouchers to individuals and families, designed to help them with these high costs and alleviate the burden somewhat. This is great news, but what are businesses doing in order to help alleviate the stress of juggling both career and family? We are living in an increasingly flexible world where we can access information wherever and whenever we want, yet we still can’t find the balance between work and family life!
Many businesses today recognise the importance of offering flexible working policies to employees, finding ways to make the working day evolve with our lifestyles. Those organisations are reaping the benefits of a happier and more productive workforce. Even greater benefit has been felt by employees who are taking it upon themselves to improve the way they can connect with colleagues, personally investing in video conferencing and file sharing tools that allow them to work anywhere they need to without affecting their productivity.
Something else which caught my eye recently, and is further cause for businesses to re-think their flexible working policies, comes from the Department of Education. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is expected to unveil plans which not only increases the childcare allowance by two hours but also offers greater flexibility to mums and dads over how they use their 15 hours a week of free childcare. As a result of these changes, parents will be able to utilise this childcare allowance anytime between the hours of seven am and seven pm.
Whatever time your day starts, working no longer needs to be confined to the boundaries of the four walls of the office. Individuals are increasingly recognising that connectivity tools that allow constant communication between teams and employees means there is less of a requirement to have to be present in the office, leaving people with the opportunity to do the school run, look after a sick child or work from home during the school holidays.
Do you negotiate flexible hours? Do you maximise childcare vouchers? There are many options out there and evaluating these in line with your family’s needs will surely lead to finding a way that enables your lifestyle to be more flexible. As we have seen from the attention of the press over the past six months, the challenge will remain and is not something we can expect to improve overnight. Instead individuals – and their employers – will need to look for new ways to manage the increasing costs, making the most of Government schemes and establishing the best route to allow parents greater flexibility.