As summer heats up, help your employees avoid family care meltdowns

While for some people summer means sunshine, longer days, ice cream in the park or getting away for a holiday, for many parents and carers it’s something quite different: a challenging juggling act.

For parents looking to balance keeping the kids entertained over the (seemingly never ending!) school holidays, with work demands, and quality family time, the summer holidays can be an extremely stressful period. Many of those who rely on friends and family for care may find their support team are away for their own summer holidays. For those whose children are normally in school, but aren’t yet old enough to be left to their own devices during the break, there’s the thorny and potentially expensive question of how to care for them during the summer holidays.

And now there’s the cost-of-living crisis on top of “business as usual” summer holiday care planning. This adds further pressure for parents and carers, trying to make their money go further to cover rocketing food and energy prices before they begin to consider the cost of holiday clubs or other options.

There is a place for forward-thinking employers in this complicated equation. For organisations looking to support their staff, there are a number of practical steps they can take.

Make the most of allowances

Start with the basics: employers should get the message out to their people that tax-free childcare is being underclaimed by families. Encourage employees to check they’re not missing out on up to £2,000 of support a year. This financial support can help pay for childcare during the summer holidays.

Make back-up care available

Breakdowns in care arrangements are an unwelcome fact of life. Our Work+Family Snapshot 2022 found that breakdowns in care can not only be unexpected but also long lasting. Two-thirds (67%) of respondents experienced a breakdown in childcare arrangements in the last year. Of those experiencing these childcare breakdowns, well over half (58%) had a breakdown of five days or more. Twenty-eight per cent had a childcare breakdown of more than 10 days.

The same research found that 58% of employees said family has become a higher priority in the past 12 months than before, while 31% said that their career ambitions are stronger now than a year ago, a two-fold increase on the 2021 results. Employers wanting to attract and retain talent in a tight labour market will need to plan proactively to meet both of these employee priorities. Of course, this means offering clear career progression pathways while supporting work-life fit. Stepping in to solve care breakdowns plays a strong role in supporting work-life balance as well as demonstrating commitment to the individual in the role.

Employers who provide staff with access to back-up care not only support their people, but also see bottom line benefits. In the absence of back-up care, 57% of respondents would use up annual leave on a care break down, bringing potential wellbeing costs. The alternative is to try to find care at very short notice which is costly as well as stressful. According to Bright Horizons user feedback surveys 2022 YTD, 87% said they would have missed work if back-up care had not been available. Assuming a full-time salary of £32K, this saved in excess of £11,076,000 for our clients in 2021. Many back-up care users are of course on significantly higher salaries. Sixty-one per cent would consider changing employer without it (Bright Horizons user feedback surveys 2022 YTD).

More than ‘emergency childcare’

Back-up care can be so much more than simply breakdown cover. Delivered by experts who know how to form rapport swiftly, it can turn out to be quite a treat for the children, as well as a sanity-saver for parents. We’re pleased to have a wide range of testimonials from happy parents and carers on how supportive they found their back-up care to be.

A working parent from Citibank, N.A. London Branch said: The speed at which Bright Horizons was able to find me care and accommodate my request was excellent. We could not have asked for more from Beatrice, she was organized, timely, proactive, had constant energy with our son.

A working parent from a global law firm said: It was easy to book, it's my child's usual nursery so less disruption for her and it was really convenient.

A working parent from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. UK said: Wonderful nanny, the children love her. Really engaged with them all day, reading, playing, crafts as well as activities out of the house through her own initiative.

A working parent in the global Financial Services sector said: Affia was really hands on with the wee one. Kept him active, busy and happy. She also ensured he enjoyed his sandwich, fruits and yoghurts. She made him feel comfortable and settled around her which is a big plus for me as he hardly does that with someone he has just met. Overall, I would recommend her services again.

A working parent from Goldman Sachs UK said: Easy to book. Quick drop-off and pick-up. James had a really nice day and was clearly entertained and stimulated during the day. Thanks everyone for helping to give him such a great experience.

Bright Horizons delivered over 90,000 days of care in UK & Ireland in 2021, with a post-care Customer Satisfaction score of 92% (Bright Horizons user feedback surveys 2022 YTD) making an impact across thousands of families, through over 420 employers.

Beyond the summer

As well as back-up care, there are many other options for employers looking to support employees in caring responsibilities. Workplace Nursery (onsite) or Nursery Partnership (underwriting places in local nursery) bring cost-saving benefits for both employers and employees. Tax savings through the Workplace Nursery Exemption mean full tax and National Insurance Contribution (NIC) exemption for both employer and employee for on-site and near-site provision. Employees save on average 32% of childcare cost, depending on salary and tax bands. This puts around £5,500 back into employees’ family finances (Typical client example 2022).

A nursery partnership can be cost-neutral for employers, given savings in employer NICs. According to our Work+Family Snapshot research, 86% say access to workplace nurseries or nursery partnerships improves their productivity and Bright Horizons US Modern Family Index 2022 revealed 60% would stay with their employer in return for everyday child care. Several clients have recently increased their number of places to meet rising demand (Bright Horizons Client Relations team feedback 2022).

Looking to the future

The Autumn is set to bring further financial pressures for families. It’s helpful to know that in addition to Government support with energy bills, there has been some help for employees, from 6th July, in the UK with the threshold at which National Insurance becomes payable rising to £12,570. This matches the point at which income tax begins. Following the pressure of the NIC rate rise in April, workers paid up to around £40,000 should find their NI position better than it was, even before the April rise. Further ahead, UK income tax is set to fall from 20% to 19% from April 2024.

That said, the ‘back to school’ moment in the Autumn could be a time of dread as colder months ahead bring the need to turn up the heating amid talk of further rising energy prices. When talented employees can be hard to attract and retain, supporting with everyday care and back-up care is a meaningful way of demonstrating investment in your people. It also promises a strong return on investment in terms of both reducing absence and enhancing engagement.

If you’d like to know more about anything mentioned in this article, please visit our website or email for more information.