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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Childcare facilities: Are they good enough?
Many women are not going back to work after having a baby because childcare facilities are not good enough, a study suggests.

The research by Human Resources Magazine, found hostility towards flexible working, lack of crèches and a failure to recognise a "work/life balance" particularly in the private sector.

But the public sector was found to be far more working mother friendly.

The survey suggested that 78% of public sector organisations attract at least three out of four women back to work after maternity leave.

What do you think of the childcare facilities at your work? Or has the lack of sufficient childcare put you off returning to work?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I would like to know who pays for the childcare services in this country. My feeling is that certain groups are effectively subsidising childcare - mainly those women who choose not to have children, and men. If women choose to have children, and then choose to go back to work - why on earth should they get subsidised childcare (either Government or corporate)? End subsidies now and let the market sort out the situation. There is a sickening culture of demands for subsidies in this country that needs to be broken, else we'll end up in a situation where one group of the population is milked to support the chosen lifestyles of another group.
Mary Adams, UK

A disgruntled workforce is of no benefit to anybody

Keith L, UK
I'm about to become a father for the first time in January, and the cost of childcare is daunting. My employer offers childcare vouchers, but nothing else - there is absolutely no chance of flexitime for me, or part time work. My wife's employers are even worse - as a lawyer she earns considerably more than me but will have to return to the 10 hour days in May. My employer, incidentally, is a "quango"-type organisation - one of the ones who are supposedly more sympathetic, even though I have been told that I will not get leave to attend pre-natal classes, despite my doctor recommending I attend.

It's about time governments sat up and took notice of these problems, since a disgruntled workforce is of no benefit to anybody - employers or state. It's clear that employers will do nothing if left alone, so we really need more statutory rights. Some will no doubt call this "red tape" - I call it my right to enjoy a fulfilling family and work life which complement each other.
Keith L, UK

Why are we so keen to attract mothers back to work? Why are we not supporting mothers who choose not to work after having children? e.g. transferring tax allowance from wife to husband. Having flexible working conditions for mothers and not for other workers is bound to cause resentment amongst working colleagues.
Paolo, UK

If you elect to have children you are electing to have the financial responsibilities associated with them. If you want to have children and work fine but YOU the individual are responsible for the provision of child care facilities for your children, not the government, not local government and not your employer. If your employer provides crèche facilities for your children it should be regarded as part of your salary and a benefit in kind exactly the same way as a company car is. Now you can all bleat on about how hard done by you are.
Phil Davies, UK

I agree that childcare is important for the future generations but parents please don't damage your arguments by trotting out the old chestnut about your children being taxpayers in the future. There's unlikely to be any support or pension provision for our generation who are currently paying their taxes to support everyone. Your children will be contributing to the economy yes. And that's important but they will not be paying their taxes to support us. Please get your facts right.
Sarah, UK

Maybe all these people who are saying that if you choose to have kids, then childcare is your problem, should bear in mind that if other people decide not to have children because there is not enough childcare, then there will be no one to subsidise them in their old age. As it is, the birth rate is falling through the floor and we are not even replacing ourselves now. If things carry on in this way, all those people who are anti-immigration are going to have to change their minds because immigration will be the only way to keep this country running.
Rowan, UK

I have been a full time working parent since my son was four months old, he attends a day nursery which costs me £24.00 a day. This "eats" a large proportion of my monthly salary and there is very little alternative as childcare in the south is very expensive. I work in production manufacturing and my firm or my manager is not childcare friendly at all, and this attitude makes it a constant struggle to stay at work. I was even asked to put a contingency plan in place if my two and a half year old son was sick as my manager did not want me to take short notice days off. The attitudes of many firms will have to change if we are to tempt mothers back into the workplace. Based on my own experiences, I would think twice about recommending it to others.
Sarah Shepherd, England

I worry constantly about the effect of scarce and poor quality childcare on my four year-old grandson. My daughter works for a large national company, which is not only unsympathetic and inflexible in its working practices but places a great deal of pressure on her to work more than the statutory 48 hour week, even though she has refused to sign a waiver.

After a summer of being farmed out to assorted family, friends and playgroups, my little grandson starts full time education in September and will be abandoned to pre-and-post school clubs, while his mother works 10 hour day. Her employer is already harassing her because she cannot drop him off at school before 8am and must collect him later than 6pm and she will probably be forced to leave him in the care of neighbours. Working time and family legislation is all very well, but many employers simply ignore it. No wonder juvenile delinquency is rising so fast when parents are actively prevented from fulfilling their responsibilities.
Angela, UK

The Government's voucher scheme is practically worthless

Jay, England
I agree with Mark. Living in London, my wife and I were faced with the stark choice of one of us leaving our job or paying almost £500 a month for a private nursery. There were no other options. The nursery is great but now that we have two children there it costs a bomb. The Government's voucher scheme is practically worthless. The fact that the nursery closes at 6pm means a mad rush across town to make it in time and avoid accruing "fines" for lateness. In the absence of any central policy on childcare, individual employees find they have to barter for flexibility at work and hope that doing so does not worsen their prospects. And it's certainly true that such schemes as do exist are heavily weighted towards single parents and low-income families. The rest of us simply become low-income families after paying for childcare.
Jay, England

I am lucky enough to work for an extremely supportive local authority who have family-friendly policies that they are prepared to back up with action. I have returned to full time work after a break of 6 months to have my first child, although I will only be in the office on Mondays and Fridays: the rest of the week I will be flexible working from home. The authority set me up with a laptop so that I can access my files and emails from home. As far as they are concerned, as long as the work is completed, I could be working at 4am! I do consider myself to be very fortunate.
Kathy Saunders, England

I have to agree with many of the comments. We had to move back to the area where my parents and in-laws live to enable us to have childcare. As a family, I as the woman although the higher earner am expected to take care of my children in times of illness, and I have a very understanding employer where as my husband's firm penalise those who have to take a day off work in an emergency, how can that be family orientated.

Children are our future and even those who choose not to have children for whatever reason will rely on ours in the future to pay taxes etc. Surely good childcare is an essential not a luxury in today's society or have we not really moved on at all.
Joanne Corless, UK

Childcare is the responsibility of the parents. It is not the responsibility of employers or the government. If a parent does not want to have the responsibility of children and puts their own actions and careers above their children then the taxpayer or private companies should definitely not be responsible. Please note the repetition of the word "responsibility", not politically correct but a word that is apparently becoming obsolete in the English language! Wake up Brits its never too late.
John, USA

Everyone has a right to work. Every child has a right to have the best care possible and that must be its parents. Shouldn't we encourage a parent to stay at home and bring up their children? We live in a world where the young continually lack discipline and good role models. What's happen with high standards of morality? Society is changing for the worst. If we continue to treat our offspring as simply another thing to have in the house without really spending the time and energy then God help us in the future because we are going to need his help.
Sam, UK

I am a sole parent with an 16 month old son. I am forced to work full time and he is in full time nursery. I have a new partner, who I love dearly, but I am unable to let him move in (which would be both beneficial to myself and my child) as we would then have to fund £500 per month nursery fees. As a single parent, I currently receive £70 per week WFTC to help with the cost. My employer, a large college, will not provide child care facilities for staff (or students!) and I am forced to drive miles out of the way to pick him up and drop him off. I currently see him for less than an hour a day and it is heartbreaking. I feel penalised for being a mother, a single mum and for wanting to try and make the best of my situation. Flexible working and subsidised nursery costs would benefit my employer, myself, my family and most importantly my child by balancing commitments financially and emotionally.
Nykkie Berry, UK

What should not be forgotten is that if you bring a child into this world, why would you require a creche, with the exception of single parents, I find it strange that both sets of parents feel the need to work. The same excuses are always put forward, to give the child a better life, what's that? Shipping him/her off to be looked after by someone else 40 hours or more a week?
James Collins, UK

If the Government were to provide, or encourage companies to provide, childcare then most women would be able to return to work. Women would return to the economy as paid workers and childcare would no longer be mostly unpaid work. Unemployment would rise as there would be far more people available for work. The Government love to keep women in the home as it's good for their unemployment statistics. Better to have a woman working as an unpaid childcare worker than out in the economy making them look bad.
Karen, UK

If you can't afford the childcare yourself, why do you expect others like me to work long hours for your benefit?

Linda, USA
I think that essential costs like this, and housing, should be deducted from gross earnings, and income tax paid only on disposable income. I don't think it should be an employer's responsibility to provide childcare; some may choose to, but ultimately in a lot of organisations the employees are at the bottom of a very long list of priorities. Mind you, having children should be a choice - and looking after them should be a full-time job. If you can't afford them, don't have them. There's more to life than kids.
Sam, Germany

Why on earth have children you can't afford? And then go on to have a second? If you can't afford the childcare yourself, why do you expect others like me to work long hours for your benefit? Do you really think I want to pay for your home/worklife balance? Have a child, stay at home then you won't need childcare. After all, I thought that that was what mother's were for.
Linda, USA

I look after our son while my wife goes to work. When she comes home at 1800 I see her for 15 minutes, then I go to work until 0300. We do this Monday to Friday plus she has to work every other Saturday until 1200. We have to do this just to survive, we can't afford childcare and her employer doesn't even offer sick pay let alone childcare of any kind. This puts a great deal of presure on our marriage but we have to do it so our son can have a better start in life my wife and I never had.
Sam Collier, UK

Perhaps as an employer I should also pay extra to employees who choose to buy a second car or go on exotic holidays

T Worthington, UK
Perhaps as an employer I should also pay extra to employees who choose to buy a second car or go on exotic holidays. Both are expensive choices, just like having children. You want children, you sort out your sacrifices for yourself. It's called "responsibility". The idea that having children is something which should not be allowed to interfere in the parents' lives is not reasonable, fair, or good for the children or society. It is very fashionable, however.
T Worthington, UK

Unlike Quebec with a two-dollar day care per day for all, the rest of Canada doesn't have a reliable child care policy. In Ontario, it is up to the local government to provide space and subsidy for children and this doesn't come easily. Canada with only 30 million people, cannot afford a comprehensive child care policy!
Baby, Canada

Instead of the Government handing out ridiculous tax benefits for married couples with children, surely it would be more sensible to use that money to fund childcare facilities

Philip J, UK
Instead of the Government handing out ridiculous tax benefits for married couples with children, surely it would be more sensible to use that money to fund childcare facilities. But these should only be available for those who cannot afford to pay themselves and thus should be means-tested.
It is a problem of priorities in the end, and if money is spent on tax breaks for people who have high incomes it cannot also be used on child care facilities for others.
Philip J, UK

I am considering having children in the next year or two, however my current employer doesn't offer any childcare help, and I don't want to return to work full time, otherwise what's the point in having a child! When it comes to having a child I shall ask my employer if I can return on a job share or part time, if they say no then I shall have to give up a job I enjoy.
Jo, UK

I am expecting my second child at the moment. My current employer, a large accounting firm, offered me the options of buying childcare vouchers at a reduced rate, or working part time. Flexible working was not seen as an alternative. However, the firm are keen to be seen as promoting a correct 'work/life balance' for its employees. Suffice to say, I will be returning to work full-time after my statutory maternity leave of 18 weeks. I feel as if I have no real alternative - my partner and I will have to depend on my in-laws to provide us with the childcare that we need.
Debby, London, England

My public sector employer has been understanding when I have had to take time off to look after our sick child, but offers no other support. As my wife earns more than I do, I am the one who spends the time with our child. I would be very surprised if I am the only father in this situation.
Gordon, UK

Our daughter who is now 3 and a half has been in a private nursery since she was 4 months old. We are very pleased with the service we receive. But quality costs. We pay about £500 per month which is a big chunk of one of our salaries. My wife is due to give birth to a second child any day now and affording to have two children in such expensive day care will be hard to afford and we will have to consider our options. I think the government should give tax relief, or something, to help afford quality childcare.
Mark Boulter, England

My firm has recently recognised that many of its employees are parents

Janet, UK
The large private sector engineering firm I work for does not have any childcare facilities, so my son goes to a private day nursery, at a cost of £20 per day. However, my firm has recently recognised that many of its employees are parents and has started implementing family friendly policies, such as part time working and job sharing. We now have the option to take part of our salary as Child Care Vouchers, thus exempting that part of the salary from National Insurance contributions. They have also just agreed that I can alter my working hours when my son starts school next week. All things considered, the 'child friendliness' of my firm is improving steadily.
Janet, UK

It's easy to comment on childcare facilities at work: they don't exist.
Francesco Gianni, UK

I work full time and I have had terrible problems with childcare - childminders and nurseries. There doesn't seem to be a proper body who looks after childcare from the customer (parent) perspective. Councils just seem keen to keep numbers up, regardless of whether the care provided is good or not. I also work for a large organisation - John Lewis - who do not provide any childcare facilities and do not plan to. They say they are able to recruit and retain staff without providing this facility so do not see it as necessary. While the current attitudes to childcare exist in this country, nobody is forced to make any changes.
Lynn Clark, UK

Lack of childcare nationally is a very serious issue

Victoria Carey, UK
My employer provides no childcare facilities and if I could afford not to return to work (I am our family breadwinner) I would stay at home. Lack of childcare nationally is a very serious issue. My husband is unable to work because we have been unable to find adequate childcare for our son. He is a very talented man.
Victoria Carey, UK

We currently have no creche facilities and I feel that there is little support with regard to flexible working arrangements or reduced hours of work. Women would be prepared to work more flexible hours given the chance.
Wendy Bottrell, UK

Money has been put into the provision of extra childcare after school and now there is new financial provision for even younger children, but the new red tape (ofsted inspections etc) is causing problems for the existing groups. However in the long run it will make child care more suitable and ensure that parents feel more confident in leaving their children in the care of the after school clubs etc. However all these clubs are being run on a shoe string and they cannot afford to follow requirements as requested which means that most will have to close down.
Glenys McGraw, England

Childcare is a nightmare

Bluebell, Scotland
Despite the fact that I work in the public sector and work flexitime, my boss hates people using flexi to have days off which can make things rather awkward. Childcare is a nightmare - it's fine when they are wee and can go to a daycare nursery - but as for school nurseries, schools etc, nearly everyone I know has problems finding childcare for their school age kids. I do believe that the government are trying to improve things with the introduction of wraparound care - but please remember that mothers from 2 parent families who work usually do so because they have little choice if they are to have a decent standard of living. Childcare is as much a problem for 2 parent families as it is for single parents so can we have policies aimed at parents and not just single parents?
Bluebell, Scotland

I have worked now for 2 separate county councils, neither of which has offered any childcare help. Where is the help we public sector workers are supposed to have, or is this facility just for nurses?
Jo MacGregor, England

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Business
UK business 'fails working mothers'
08 Jun 00 | Health
Women: 'Underpaid and overworked'
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