Childcare identified as a key issue for business leaders
A recent survey conducted by the Institute of Directors (IoD) of over 600 business leaders found that a majority, 57%, stated that they believe the cost and availability of childcare restricts the capacity of women to take on more senior business positions. Additionally, 72% of business leaders were in favour of the provision of more generous Government support with childcare costs.
This reflects a growing recognition of childcare as part of the critical infrastructure that employers and their staff rely on. Out of the entire population of working age people in Northern Ireland who are in employment, just over 40% are parents with dependent children. If challenges in accessing and affording childcare results in 40% of the workforce struggling to work, that would have a major impact on every aspect of life – from our economic growth and development, to our ability to access critical services.
This is a key issue for employers, at a time when many are already struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need. Employers who respond to the needs of working parents and carers are therefore shaping a workplace that is fit for an evolving, and increasingly selective workforce. In doing so, they are creating a space that staff want to remain in and avoiding the significant costs associated with losing staff, whether permanently or on a temporary basis.
That’s why the findings from Employers For Childcare’s most recent Northern Ireland Childcare Survey are so vital. Parents clearly identified that access to affordable childcare is essential in enabling them to take up or remain in work, training or education. Difficulties accessing or affording childcare therefore impact on a parent’s ability to work. 44% of the parents reflected in the research confirmed that difficulties in accessing or affording childcare had impacted on their ability to work, a figure that rose to 58% of mothers.
This has impacted on those parents in a range of ways, with many having had to reduce their hours of work, others experiencing limited career prospects or progression, and some having had to stop working altogether.
Strategic long-term investment in childcare urgently needed
We are calling for the findings of this research to inform work underway on a new Childcare Strategy, presenting a not-to-be-missed opportunity for our Executive Ministers to show their commitment to building back better by investing in a world-class childcare infrastructure – the benefits of which will be felt for generations to come. At the same time, in the delivery of the Skills Strategy and 10X Economic Vision for Northern Ireland, Ministers can ensure that employers and our business sectors are rightly involved both in supporting their staff to access the childcare they need, and in securing the associated business benefits.
In the meantime, employers can take practical action now to ensure that all of their new and existing staff are aware of the financial support they can benefit from with the cost of childcare. Receiving support with childcare can play a critical role in enabling parents to get into and stay in work, which clearly also benefits employers.
Most working parents are eligible for financial support with their registered childcare costs, and yet many are missing out. Employers For Childcare can deliver online advice sessions for employers and their staff, explaining the support that is available and also provide confidential one-to-one guidance to individual staff members, including personalised ‘better-off’ calculations. Over the last five years, our team has helped families identify £54.5 million in financial support they did not realise they were entitled to.
To organise a bespoke, online advice session for your staff, contact our Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a date in the diary.