Could it be New Year cheer for families?

Let’s hope the Government’s New Year resolutions include a fresh approach to
childcare provision.

The speculation that the Chancellor Gordon Brown may make childcare vouchers
tax-free in the next Budget could just be wishful thinking on the part of the
working parents lobby (see page 4). But if it is true, then employers should
embrace the change with open arms, as it will go a long way to transforming
views on combining motherhood with careers.

Energy and talent within the UK workforce is being wasted because too many
mothers give up their jobs, feeling disillusioned with the lack of childcare
support. British parents pay the highest childcare bills in Europe, while every
week, more and more of them are withdrawing their labour, frustrated that they
cannot balance their costs and the demands of the job with their family needs.

Only one childcare place exists for every five children under the age of
eight, and a typical nursery place for a child under two costs £128 a week.

Childcare vouchers are available, but few employers have bought into the
scheme because of the administrative burden of calculating the tax. If the
chancellor removes this obstacle, then perhaps firms will see how beneficial
vouchers could be in retaining good people and encouraging them to return to
work after maternity.

HR and employers have a huge responsibility to act on this issue, and it
makes good business sense. Working mums are not as motivated and engaged as
they could be, yet will become an essential resource going forward. There is
growing evidence that, if given the chance, the majority of those in employment
would quit tomorrow due to the lack of workplace flexibility and crippling
childcare costs.

This Labour Government has moved a long way in addressing workplace injustices
and inequality. The next step is to give even greater priority to childcare
provision for the good of the economy and the wider community.

Food for thought

Personnel Today welcomes feedback from readers/users about the magazine and our
website, personneltoday.com.

Tell us about any topics we could cover better or any themes we should be
addressing in 2004. What has impacted on you and your organisation most this
year? What do you expect to be the major challenges in your organisation going
forward? E-mail your ideas to ross.wigham@rbi.co.uk

The editorial team look forward to providing continued support to the HR
profession next year and wish all readers/users a very happy Christmas.

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