I’m a mum who needed and wanted to return to work, so my little boy now goes to nursery two days a week. For anyone who is looking for childcare for the first time, it can be a worrying time – choosing the right type of care, dealing with some inevitable feelings of guilt and hoping your little one will settle in OK. Before you deal with all of those issues, you have to deal with realising how much it costs! Childcare bills are notoriously high in the UK and many mums decide not to go back to work unless they want to maintain their career for the longer term. In the short term, it hurts to give up a large chunk of your pay to a childcarer.
I was really fortunate that my new employer offered Childcare Vouchers. Childcare Vouchers are all linked to tax, but don’t panic! – they are actually really easy. Basically I give up part of my salary each month (up to £243 – the maximum amount, which is the same whether you work full time or part time). I don’t pay tax or National Insurance on that chunk of money, but I have to use it to pay my child’s nursery. I use Childcare Voucher provider Busy Bees Benefits and the whole thing is run online, so I can see what’s in my Childcare Voucher account and pay my childcare bill that way. Just doing this saves me £933 a year. My husband works and gets Childcare Vouchers too, so we save even more.
Childcare Vouchers are offered as a benefit by employers, but they don’t have to provide them. If you are returning to your job after maternity leave or starting with a new company, ask if they have a scheme, and if not, would they be willing to set one up? It makes sense for the company to offer Childcare Vouchers as it doesn’t cost them anything…it can actually save them money too in National Insurance. The more parents use the scheme, the more the company can save.
Childcare Vouchers made returning to work more financially worthwhile for me. Plus they aren’t just for nursery care. They can be used for things like holiday schemes and after school clubs up to the 1st September after your child turns 15.
The other thing to note is that you may not be able to join a Childcare Voucher scheme after Autumn 2015 as the Government has proposed a new scheme called Tax-free Childcare. The details are still being ironed out. Some families will be better off on the new scheme, but some won’t. If you already have Childcare Vouchers, you can choose which scheme is best for you. So to make sure you have the choice and to start making savings now, get on a Childcare Voucher scheme as soon as you can.
Written by Stephanie Forrester, Busy Bees Benefits
If you would like to find out more, please go to: www.busybeesbenefits.com