The founder of a campaign urging business and government to back a childcare levy, helping parents to return to the workforce, outlines the benefits it could bring to companies and the wider economy…
My name is Carolina Brière. I have three children aged under seven and a full-time job. Over the past year I have attended several meetings, networking events and conferences geared towards motivating mothers to return to work.
Employers have made a lot of progress in this area. Many companies are running programmes for returning women and some are offering flexible hours for the first time. There is also a growing awareness that firms benefit from diversity at board level.
Although all this is encouraging, bear in mind the shocking finding of a November 2018 survey conducted on behalf of the Women and Work All-Party Parliamentary Group – that 18 per cent of women seeking a return to work in financial services after a career break had been made redundant while on parental leave.
The cost of childcare continues to be the biggest barrier preventing mothers from going back into employment.
Only 23 per cent of respondents to a UK-wide poll by LinkedIn in March said they felt it was financially worthwhile to return to work after having a child.
Half said they had deferred starting a family because they were worried about childcare costs. The average delay was two and a half years.
Business and government need to work together to put in place a meaningful childcare framework that it is available to all.
With Brexit all over the place, it is more important than ever that companies are able to attract and retain employees. Bringing women back into work will widen the talent pool and help to alleviate the nation’s acute skills shortage.
It will improve productivity and reduce the gender pay gap, as women will take shorter career breaks. The result will be better returns for shareholders.
Research conducted by KPMG for Vodafone indicates the potential economic benefits associated with bringing back into the workplace all women on a career break, with experience at middle manager-level and above, could be in the region of £151 billion per year.
The Childcare Levy Campaign is not about imposing a levy to companies but rather helping employees – whether this is the father of a family, a single dad, divorced mum or other – with their childcare.
Childcare affects not only women, but all. It affects individuals and families as well as shareholder returns, company growth and overall economic growth.
The Childcare Levy is calling for companies to offer childcare support to their employees as part of their compensation packages, and for government to allow companies to deduct childcare support to employees as an operating expense – the same way that job-related training can be deducted as an operating expense.
Until the government is ready to implement policy change, there are many ways that companies can help to support employees’ childcare costs.
From offering that part of the compensation is allocated to childcare; to offering a childcare scheme similar to a pension scheme – where the employee can put monies into a company’s savings or accrual account until such time that the employee has their first child; to simply negotiating a discount rate with childcare providers for their employees to use.
The Childcare Levy Campaign asks employers to think creatively about how to help employees with childcare costs, so that this support can become the norm and companies can secure the talent that they need.