Childcare problems affecting families & economy, Chamber research reveals | March 2022

More than half of the employers who took part in a Chamber of Commerce survey reported that childcare problems experienced by working parents are having a knock-on effect on business performance.

Date: Tuesday 15 March 2022

More than half of the employers who took part in a Chamber of Commerce survey reported that childcare problems experienced by working parents are having a knock-on effect on business performance.

Just under 50% of parents who participated in the study said they were having difficulties finding a childcare place, and that figure increased to around two-thirds for parents who have children aged under three.

Those are the main headlines from research due to be published today the Island’s biggest business network which has members who represent companies employing approximately half of the private sector workforce. Chamber’s Legislation Group conducted the research on behalf of the Child Care Strategy Working Group (CSWG). The CSWG is a group comprising representatives of Island childcare providers, Chamber’s Legislative Group, and cross-Governmental representatives.

Information from the research is included in a draft ‘Childcare Strategy’ document published by the Department for Education, Sport and Culture (DESC) and Department for Enterprise (DFE). DESC and DFE will now be entering into further consultation with all stakeholders, including nursery and childcare providers, with a view to bringing back a finalised Childcare Strategy to Tynwald in July. Chamber says the provision of good childcare is an important matter that warrants ‘critical decisions’ to be made by Government and the wider community to address the issues raised in the research. It’s also vital, says Chamber, that there are no delays with the proposed timeline for the Childcare Strategy.

Chamber’s Legislation Group began its surveys last year. Two were carried out into the current requirements, challenges and thoughts in respect of childcare on Island. One focused on parents and those with childcare responsibility (and prompted 474 replies), while the other was aimed at employers and received feedback from 48 respondents.

Chamber President, Kristan McDonald, commented: “These surveys clearly show that the shortage and cost of childcare on the Island is having a real impact on both families and the economy. The number of responses we received is among the largest we have ever seen for an Isle of Man Chamber survey. That alone indicates the strength of feeling among working parents and employers, and their feedback will help to form future legislation and initiatives in this area. We would like to thank everyone who took part.”
Kristan added: “We look forward to our continued work with the CSWG as the childcare strategy progresses and will be consulting on these matters further with our members over the coming months.”

Key findings from both surveys carried out by Chamber’s Legislation Group are detailed below and you can download the full report here.  

LISTEN: Chamber Legislation Group Lead, Gail Yeowell spoke to Manx Radio about the survey and consultation - click here (listen from 08.35)

Survey for parents and those with childcare responsibility:
• 42% of respondents said that if a portion of statutory maternity leave/adoption leave and statutory pay could be shared with the child’s father (or other parent) they would share the leave between them. This increased to 54% for those with children aged 0-2.
• We also asked respondents if they would share the leave/pay with a wider family member and over one fifth of respondents answered that yes, they would use this option.
• When we compared the number of hours that children were currently in formal childcare with the number of hours that parents would like them to be in formal childcare, around 10% more of all respondents, and 20% more of respondents with children aged under two, would like their children to be in 10 or more hours of childcare than are currently in 10 or more hours of childcare. 15 to 25 hours a week was the most popular option with 10 to 15 and 25 to 35 hours a week following closely behind. Some respondents also required childcare which is available beyond the usual core weekday offer from the vast majority of childcare providers.
• 48% of all respondents indicated a level of difficulty finding a childcare place, rising to 66% for those with children aged under two.
• The highest barrier to using formal childcare was reported as cost, followed by a lack of availability of places.
• 71% of respondents said that if their employer operated a creche facility at or near their workplace they would use this facility, rising to 78% for the under two group.
Survey for employers
• Employers identified that a lack of available childcare had caused the following issues for their business:
o 29% reported that this had caused difficulties when hiring a staff member.
o 34% said that this had delayed a staff member from returning to work as scheduled after maternity/adoption/paternity leave and 8.51% said that the employee did not return.
o 23% said that this had prevented them from retaining a staff member.
o 56% said that this had prevented a staff member from either working the hours that they or the business would ideally like them to work, or from working in an area of the business that they or the employer would like them to work.
• A positive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that was noted by employers was that they are now more comfortable allowing working from home and flexible working, having had the opportunity to test this in practice on a large scale.
• 40% of employers provide an employer’s scheme to enhance statutory maternity/paternity/adoption leave and/or pay to their staff. For employers who do not currently provide this but would like to, we asked how government could incentivise this provision. Answers included:
o Providing financial support to businesses to help them to provide this
o Allowing shared parental leave so that employees can return more quickly to work
o Increasing the availability of childcare places for children under two
Employers also raised concerns around funding maternity pay, especially for small businesses, so requested financial assistance from the government in this area.
• We asked employers if they would be willing to provide a scheme which allows a portion of maternity/paternity/adoption leave to be shared with the employee’s partner/other parent. 41% said yes and a further 35% said that they didn’t know. Cost and complexity were cited as barriers to implementing this. Employers were keen that legislation in this area enhance equality and fairness between parents and also requested clear guidance notes to aid the introduction of this in practice.