Northcliffe Newspapers is launching a childcare scheme to encourage mothers to return to work after maternity leave. The regional newspaper publisher estimates that 300 of its 9,000 employees will buy childcare vouchers through salary sacrifice. Michael French, head of employment affairs, said: "If the scheme makes childcare more helpful and more accessible and helps mothers to return to work, then it’s got to be worth exploring. "We would have done it sooner but for [some] fairly difficult standards and criteria that the Inland Revenue sets." The programme was rolled out across the company last month, after being piloted successfully. French said he expects interest to accelerate after the new tax breaks for childcare vouchers are introduced this April. "When the tax exemption kicks in I’m sure the scheme will get a lot of publicity – we want to be prepared to respond."