Practical ways to support working carers as autumn looms
The ‘back to school’ moment could be a time of dread as colder months ahead bring the need to turn on the heating amid talk of 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 people. It also promises a strong return on investment in terms of both reducing absence and enhancing engagement.
For organisations looking to support their staff, there are a number of practical steps they can take.
Make the most of allowances and government support
Start with the basics: employers should get the message out to employees 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 at any time of year.
It’s helpful to know that as well as government support with energy bills, there has been help for employees in the UK with the threshold at which National Insurance (NI) becomes payable rising to £12,570 on 6 July. This matches the point at which income tax begins. Following the pressure of the NI 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.
Make back-up care available
Our Work+Family Snapshot 2022 found that breakdowns in care arrangements 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 more than half (58%) had a breakdown of five days or more. And 28% had a childcare breakdown of more than 10 days.
The research also 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 were stronger 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. This means offering clear career progression 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.
Employers that provide staff with access to back-up care not only support their employees, but also see bottom line benefits. In the absence of back-up care, 57% of respondents would use annual leave on a care breakdown, bringing potential wellbeing costs.
Their alternative is to try to find care at short notice, which is costly as well as stressful. According to Bright Horizons’ user feedback surveys 2022 YTD, 87% of respondents said they would have missed work if back-up care had not been available. Sixty-one per cent would consider changing employer without it (Bright Horizons user feedback surveys 2022 YTD).
Other ways to support those with caring responsibilities
As well as back-up care, there are many other options for employers looking to support employees in caring responsibilities. Our 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 NI 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.
Our Work+Family Snapshot research revealed that 86% of respondents 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.
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