On The Horizon – June 2024

Author: Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership, Bright Horizons

Work+Family Snapshot sends ripples through the Media

As well as the annual Modern Families Index with a random UK working parent and carer population, Bright Horizons has another annual survey. This is the Work+Family Snapshot, which ran during Spring 2024 with client employees who had Back-Up Care, Workplace Nurseries or Workplace Nursery Partnerships or the Work+Family Space portal site available to them, providing life-stage based content, webinars and advice services.

Essentially, this important dataset shows that the employers who partner with Bright Horizons are considerably better regarded by their employees than the general UK population of employers. Our clients’ employees report better wellbeing and sense of being supported with family and home life than the wider UK population. ‘Could this be correlation rather than causation, that those working with Bright Horizons are just the UK’s (and world’s) best employers anyway?’ I hear you ask, with proper evidence-based curiosity. Certainly the over 400 UK and over 1,300 global employers we work with do tend to be leading organisations. That said, they are also among the most high-performing and – one might assume, high-pressure – environments. One of the really persuasive findings is that their employees directly attribute increased productivity and ease of doing their job to the family supports their employers make available. 

The HR media such as Personnel Today have picked up on the implications of the findings for the Return to Office trend: that family supports enable office attendance and are part of the infrastructure needed for work, whether onsite or remote. Other coverage such as that by Mandy Garner in WorkingMums focuses on the positive employer brand gains through providing family support.

You can download the report to hear more and peruse the data in glorious infographics thanks to our Creative team, among the many colleagues contributing to this. In summary, the Work+Family Snapshot offered 4 key insights:

  • Family-inclusive employers gain better productivity, performance and wellbeing in their employees as well as stronger employer brand.
  • Care provision keeps work sustainable during care disruption, return to office and life events: and particularly that Back-Up Care and ongoing nursery provision bridge the gaps.
  • Family supports level the playing field and redress gender imbalances.
  • There is a notable variation in the way different generations need and use family benefits.


Insight into the Sector’s needs for the roll out of Funded Childcare Places

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has set out advice for the Department for Education (DfE) on ensuring the success of the roll out of funded childcare places which is set to proceed under whichever government is in place from July. The PAC has reviewed DfE estimates that the early years workforce needs to grow by around 40,000 between now and September 2025, a 12% increase compared to July 2023, and provided advice to ensure the sustainability of the scheme. This is particularly relevant as many accessing the funded places for 2-year-olds in April were already in the childcare system whereas those applying for the places for 9-month-olds from September are newer entrants to the sector. “By September 2024, the DfE estimates that early year providers will have to create 15,500 more new places nationally. This rises sharply by September 2025 to 84,500, with a fifth of local authorities having to increase the supply of hours by 20% or more.”

With this need in mind, the PAC is calling for the Department for Education to develop urgently a series of interim milestones to provide assurance to Parliament that the expansion is on track, and set out contingency plans, among other measures.

From the point of view of employers, the early years sector plays a key role in the infrastructure needed for work to take place. Tying in with the new findings of the Royal Foundation Business Taskforce set out below, BusinessLDN and KPMG had stated earlier this year: “Our analysis models the potential gains of increasing the labour supply among economically inactive mothers with children under the age of 5. It shows that increasing employment by 62,000 to 250,000 people in this group could increase annual GDP by between £2.8bn and £11.3bn in 2024.”

Royal Foundation Business Taskforce underlines the role of employers in early years

The Royal Foundation Business Taskforce was established in March 2023 by The Princess of Wales including leading employers Aviva, The Co-operative Group, Deloitte, Iceland Foods, IKEA UK and Ireland, The LEGO Group, NatWest Group and Unilever UK, who have worked together to identify the scale of the opportunity and the role that business can play.

On 21st May, the Royal Foundation published the Taskforce’s report identifying five areas in which businesses can contribute. It details how investing in early childhood could generate at least £45.5 billion in value added for the national economy each year. This includes “£12.2bn from equipping people with improved social and emotional skills in early childhood, £16.1bn from reducing the need to spend public funds on remedial steps for adverse childhood experiences and £17.2bn from supporting parents and caregivers of under-fives who work”.

It sets out five areas where businesses could have an impact:

  • Building a culture that prioritises early childhood within businesses, local communities, and wider society.
  • Helping families facing the greatest challenges access the basic support and essentials they need.
  • Offering parents and carers greater support, resources, choice, and flexibility with their work.
  • Prioritising and nurturing social and emotional skills in young children and the adults in their lives.
  • Supporting initiatives which increase access to quality, affordable and reliable early childhood education and care.

The work of Bright Horizons is at the centre of enabling these aims both through our early education programmes and our work with leading employers.

As the Taskforce members have said: “If we get this right, the results for business, for the economy and for society are clear for all to see: a happier, more productive workforce today; a future workforce equipped with the skills needed to deal with all the complexity and challenges of the modern world, and £45.5 billion in value added for the national economy each year. As leaders of some of the UK’s largest businesses, we have a responsibility, but also a very clear vested interest, in driving change in this area. We hope this report will encourage businesses of all sizes, across the UK, to join us and help build a healthy, happy society for everyone.”

Bright Horizons recognised again by Great Place to Work

There was celebration earlier this year when Bright Horizons was placed 13th in the Super Large Category of Best Employers – listed for the 19th consecutive year. We are also listed in Great Places to Work for Wellbeing 2023 and Great Places to Work for Women 2023 (both not yet announced for 2024).

Now Bright Horizons has now been recognised in the inaugural year under Great Places to Work for Development: placed 18th in the Super Large category. This is particularly important given the findings (above) of the Royal Foundation Business Taskforce about the critical role played by early years educators and also the news from the Public Accounts Committee that the sector will need a huge influx of new workers and that career development is a strong demand in the sector.

Great Place to Work has put together a case study featuring Bright Horizons as the leading education provider in the listing. It starts with some of the challenges of the education sector at large and moves on to discussing Bright Horizons’ unique advantages. Commenting on the recognition, MD International, Ros Marshall is quoted: “We are so proud to receive this recognition. Our HEART principles: Honesty, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, and Teamwork help us to create a unique relationship with our colleagues, which sets us apart as an employer of choice. We listen to our workforce, and continue to learn from each other. We offer a comprehensive induction process for all team members, followed by an ongoing talent development plan tailored to individual needs and aspirations. In particular, our apprentice programme, with the capacity to support over 500 new practitioners each year, not only benefits Bright Horizons and our people, but also the broader early years sector. We invest in our colleagues’ professional development through continuous learning opportunities and offer a clear career path that allows everyone to expand their skills, take on new challenges, and achieve their goals.”

This positive impact is surely a win-win win for Bright Horizons’ employees, the employers served by its Work+Family services and the children and families benefitting from early years education and care. All of this has a wider social impact as seen in the Royal Foundation recent report.