Government urged to address high cost of childcare
The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) is calling on Government to further consider the costs of childcare and the benefits of a universal childcare entitlement up until school entry, in helping more firms retain and promote productive staff.
The Government is already planning to double free childcare next year but, following research carried out in partnership with Middlesex University, the BCC considers further steps necessary in order for businesses to successfully recruit and retain staff.
The survey, of more than 1,600 business leaders across the UK, shows that over a quarter (28%) of firms have seen a reduction of working hours by staff due to the cost of childcare, while nearly one in 10 (9%) have seen employees leave their business.
Other key findings in the survey were:
- 33% of businesses regard the availability of childcare as a key issue in recruiting and retaining staff.
- When asked to report any issues due to the cost of childcare, 12% saw a reduction in productivity and 8% saw staff changing roles within the company.
- Expanded childcare entitlements are viewed positively by firms. Thirty-nine percent of businesses expect government plans to double free childcare in 2017 would have a positive impact on their ability to recruit staff, while 37% felt it would benefit their ability to retain key staff.
Commenting on the findings, Adam Marshall, Director General at the BCC said:
“Firms across the UK are losing talented staff, often because of the availability and high cost of childcare. At a time when economic growth is softening and skills gaps and recruitment difficulties are hindering businesses, the Government should consider the childcare system as part of Britain’s core business infrastructure – in the same way that it thinks of energy, transport or broadband.
“Government must take a clear and detailed look at the costs and benefits of a universal childcare entitlement, to bridge the gap between parental leave and the start of school. This could take the form of a family account that enables parents to select the support that’s right for their working patterns from the market. In time, this could help businesses raise productivity, and help more parents stay in work. As businesses have evolved to become more flexible, government policy should also evolve – to help as many working parents as possible stay in the workplace.
“Expanded childcare options are good for families, good for businesses, and good for the economy.”
David Williams, Director of Corporate Engagement at Middlesex University, added:
“Our research highlights that childcare is a fundamental issue for many employers. Businesses need to retain talented staff and with the renewed focus from the Government on upskilling the workforce, particularly around apprenticeships and corporate degrees, it is crucial that there is sufficient affordable childcare available for employees who are studying to help fill the skills gaps.
“The childcare support available for those studying needs to be simplified and made clearer for all to help tackle gender inequality and maintain diverse workforces.”