Practical advice on work issues
Finding good quality, affordable flexible child care is one of the biggest headaches for working parents. It is also a major issue for employers because they need staff to have reliable child care. A new TUC guide, available from February 2006, aims to help. It is specifically aimed at trade union shop stewards negotiating with employers about the workforce’s child care needs. But, Rebecca Gill, policy officer for women’s equality at the TUC and author of the guide, thinks anyone looking to address child care needs would find the guide useful. Below are outlined the key issues she believes must be considered.
1 Assess the situation
Think about your workplace and what it could feasibly offer in terms of child care. If you are with an organisation that only employs 150 people, for example, asking your employer to set up an in-house nursery is not very practical and unlikely to meet with a favourable response. Child care vouchers might be a possibility however. So think about what is actually possible.
There’s little point in going to your employer with any requests before you have consulted the wider workforce about what they need. Find out what kind of child care people want, what they currently have and how much they pay. You need to think about what kind of child care is needed (for example, nursery or childminders), the location, the hours needed and so on. “Assess the demand and see what is feasibly available for your workplace and colleagues,” says Gill. A company magazine or intranet or posters on noticeboards are good ways to reach people.
3 Conduct a survey
Part of this consultation should include a survey, according to Gill. “You can find out what people would like and what their needs are,” she says. This is one of the easiest and clearest ways to assess demand and present results. The TUC guide has a sample survey that sets out what questions should be asked and how.
4 Set up a steering group
It is important to create a working party that will take collective responsibility for gathering all the necessary information, consulting with employees, constructing the case for the employer to provide child care and disseminating the results. Include representatives from different parts of the organisation. If you have a trade union, get it involved.
Find out as much relevant information on your organisation as you can. For example, if there are particular areas of the business where there are high turnover and vacancy rates, would it help to recruit and retain people if good child care packages were offered? Employers like to be presented with solutions, rather than just problems and fresh thinking could improve your chances of success.
6 Submit your claim
Find out what is currently available and consider the business case from your employer’s point of view. How will providing assistance with child care benefit them? How will not addressing the need impair business performance? Present all the options in terms of what child care provision is needed. Every local authority has a children’s information service which can provide details of local registered child care, so use that. The TUC provides info on work/life balance and family friendly policies at www.tuc.org.uk/changingtimes
More info on the TUC’s negotiating child care guide will be on its website, from February 2006.