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In the weeks following the birth of a new son or daughter, most parents barely give childcare a second thought. But as the date for the return to work gets closer, the frantic search to find good quality, affordable childcare begins.
Local authorities can provide parents with lists of childminders and nurseries in the locality, and there are a multitude of agencies to help mums and dads find the perfect nanny, but the worry of finding a good carer understandably keeps many parents awake at night. While most usually end up with childcare arrangements that they are happy with, the most fortunate mums and dads are those working for an employer who offers staff some help with childcare.
Although the waiting lists for workplace nurseries can be long, places – if subsidised – can be substantially cheaper, and even those parents who only get help with childcare vouchers soon discover that their childcare costs are significantly reduced. Many employers are well aware of the business benefits that come from providing childcare support – staff are less likely to leave and more likely to stay for longer - and unions believe that much more could be done to help working parents, often at no great cost to employers.
To encourage more employers to think about what they can do to help working parents solve their childcare dilemmas, the TUC has produced Who's looking after the children? A trade union guide to negotiating childcare (PDF, 1.88MB), a negotiating guide for unions and individual employees to show them how to persuade companies and organisations to consider venturing into the world of childcare.
Few would disagree that there is a crisis in childcare costs in the UK. TUC research produced in October 2017 shows that since 2008, the cost of childcare across England has risen four times faster than wages (and an even more astonishing seven times faster in London).