Aoife Hamilton: Childcare vouchers and family-friendly ways to promote a healthy work-life balance

Aoife Hamilton

It is important to understand the challenges parents face in achieving their desired work-life balance.

Striking the Balance: the impact becoming a parent has on working life, employment and career, a survey of 4,200 parents from across Northern Ireland published by Employers for Childcare in October 2016, revealed that 91% found it difficult to combine work commitments with family responsibilities, while 77% believed it was more difficult to progress in a career after having children.

Employees with supportive employers were more satisfied with their work-life balance. The benefits of supporting employees to help reach this balance include increased productivity, staff motivation and loyalty.

One of the ways in which employers can support staff is to help them with their childcare costs through offering a childcare voucher scheme. The scheme enables parents to swap part of their pre-tax salary for childcare vouchers, generating annual savings of up to £1,866 per family on tax and National Insurance.

There are savings for employers, too, as the amount each parent swaps from their salary is exempt from National Insurance contributions. Employers also benefit from being seen as family-friendly, which is a positive recruitment tool.

Employers offering this scheme should actively promote it to staff as it is due to close to new entrants on 4 October, meaning only existing users can continue to benefit. Those that do not have a scheme in place should set one up now.

Employers for Childcare is campaigning to keep childcare vouchers open to new entrants, and is asking people to lobby their MPs.

Childcare vouchers are just one of the ways employers can promote a healthy work-life balance for staff. Employers for Childcare’s Family friendly employer guide provides a toolkit to assist in designing working arrangements to meet the needs of both the business and its people.

Aoife Hamilton is policy and information manager at Employers For Childcare