Round up of 2017: news and events that impacted on working parents

2017 certainly had its highs and lows. It’s the year that saw President Donald Trump inaugurated, a snap general election, Brexit triggered, the leader of the opposition headline Glastonbury, and Prince Harry propose! But how have working parents fared? Employers For Childcare takes a look back over the last 12 months.

Parents take to the ballot box

In Northern Ireland, parents cast their votes in a Northern Ireland Assembly election in March, while in June, parents across the UK faced a snap general election. Childcare was an issue which featured prominently in political manifestos and debates on campaign trails up and down the country. To coincide with these elections, Employers For Childcare launched its Manifesto which identified five key asks that we believe must be addressed, not only for the benefit of parents and families, but also for the labour market and the economy.

  1. Urgently address the problems associated with childcare provision.
  2. Help to raise awareness of the financial help available to families.
  3. Encourage the use of family friendly working policies.
  4. Support the growth of Social Enterprise.
  5. Tackle economic inactivity.

HMRC commences roll out of Tax-Free Childcare

The Government introduced Tax-Free Childcare in April, allowing eligible families to claim 20 per cent of their registered childcare costs from the Government, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child, per year – £4,000 if the child has a disability.

There is no doubt the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare has marked a big change to the landscape of financial support available to help parents with childcare costs, but it is not the only form of financial support available.

To highlight the roll out of Tax-Free Childcare, Employers For Childcare launched a Big Changes, Big Choices guide to explain not only the new scheme, but also how it differs from other forms of financial support available to parents, to help them make an informed choice about whether or not they would benefit from switching to Tax-Free Childcare. We continue to stay abreast of developments and update the Big Changes, Big Choices guide accordingly.

Where it is in a parent’s best interests to use Tax-Free Childcare, Employers For Childcare will always advise them of this.  However, we are concerned that some parents will make a switch to Tax-Free Childcare without having all the information they need and could end up out of pocket as a result.  This year, two thirds (67%) of relevant callers (4,641) to our Family Benefits Advice Service were better off on Childcare Vouchers or Tax Credits, or a combination of both, rather than Tax-Free Childcare.

April also saw the introduction of two changes to Tax Credits. Firstly, the child element of Tax Credits was restricted so that only the first two children in a family are eligible. Third and subsequent children born after April 2017 will no longer be eligible. Secondly, the family element of Child Tax Credits, worth £545 per year, was removed for new claimants from 2017. There are some exceptions to limiting support to two children for Child Tax Credits and the child element in Universal Credit. These exceptions include for third and subsequent children where parents face particular circumstances, such as multiple births. There has, however, been much controversy over this and a campaign to scrap the restriction is ongoing.

In 2017 we saw the continued roll out of Universal Credit across the UK, with its introduction in Northern Ireland commencing in September 2017 and it is being phased in on a geographical basis through to September 2018.

It is clear that 2017 marked many changes to the landscape of financial support available to parents, and the new year will see continued change, with the potential closure of the Childcare Voucher scheme to new parents in April 2018. Now more than ever, it is important that parents contact us to obtain free, independent, and confidential help and advice based on their personal circumstances. Call us on 0800 028 3008 or email

Parents continue to struggle to find the right balance between work and family life.   

Several research studies and news stories highlighted how some parents – and prospective parents – feel they are overlooked when it comes to job opportunities and job promotion, and other reports noted how there are more  ‘economically inactive’ women than men.  The most common reason for ‘economic inactivity’ amongst women was family and home commitments. Unsurprisingly, these reports reinforce what parents have told us. Nearly half of respondents in our Striking the Balance research report agreed that it is more difficult to progress or develop a career after having children and a staggering 91 per cent of respondents commented on the difficulty of achieving a suitable work-life balance.

Employers For Childcare aims to make it easier for parents with dependent children to get into work and stay in work. This is why we annually recognise employers who provide and actively promote family friendly working policies through our Family Friendly Employer Awards.

The Awards are the perfect opportunity for organisations to showcase their commitment to helping their employees achieve a balance between their work and family lives. This year’s Awards, held in September, had double the applications and attendees compared to 2016, a testament to the work that has been done to raise the profile of a ‘family friendly’ culture in the workplace. Belfast City Council was crowned Family Friendly Employer of the year, having impressed the judges by going over and above legal requirements to support employees through a period marked by significant challenge and change. We will be facilitating the sharing of learning from the 2017 Award winners at our annual Workshop in March 2018.

Research has shown the benefits of creating a successful family friendly workplace culture.  It drives productivity, reduces absenteeism, attracts new staff and helps retain current staff. Our Family Friendly Employer Guide  sets out how employers can create a family friendly culture based on the key areas of:  increased flexibility, more understanding, equal opportunities, better information, and childcare support.

If you are an employer and would like more information on family friendly working policies, our Family Friendly Employer Workshop or 2018 Awards, please call 028 9267 8200 or contact

Employers For Childcare has worked hard for parents, employers and childcare providers over the last 12 months and we will continue to be a voice for working parents in 2018

Employers For Childcare launched its Social Impact Report 2016/17  in November 2017. The report highlighted how, in one year, callers who received a calculation from us collectively saved over £14.8 million. 99 per cent of these callers said speaking to our advisors helped them make decisions about their circumstances including seeking to secure work and increase their working hours.

Commenting on the report, Marie Marin, Chief Executive said: “Our invaluable charitable work in support of working parents is only possible through investment by our Social Enterprise, Employers For Childcare Vouchers – the only Social Enterprise Childcare Voucher company in the UK.  Since 2008, as a result of parents and employers choosing to ‘buy social’ and use our Social Enterprise Childcare Voucher Scheme, we have been able to invest £5.2 million into helping working families across the UK”.

If you feel you would benefit from a personal benefits check that is tailored to your family’s requirements, and helps determine what form of financial support for childcare would be best suited to you, then call 028 9267 8200.

Employers For Childcare would like to thank everyone who made our work possible over the last year and we wish you a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.