Parental leave and time off for dependants

Childcare support for your staff


Promoting a family-friendly working environment can lead to a number of business benefits including:

  • savings on National Insurance contributions if offering financial childcare support, for example, childcare vouchers
  • increased productivity
  • reduced absenteeism
  • attracting new staff
  • retention of current staff

See Employers For Childcare's guidance on being a family-friendly employer.

Communicating family-friendly policies

It's a good idea to set out in writing, eg in a staff handbook, the:

  • statutory family-friendly rights to which employees are entitled
  • enhancements to those rights, if any, that exist, and whether they are contractual or discretionary - you should exercise caution in using discretion to avoid complaints of discrimination
  • procedures they need to follow if they wish to take up these rights

See Invest Northern Ireland Employers' Handbook and HR documents and templates.

These rights should - at the very least - include rights in relation to:

Allowing flexibility in your procedures

You should try to build some flexibility into your procedures to allow your employees the time they need to deal with their childcare responsibilities.

The charity Working Families has more help and advice on helping employees achieve a work-life balance: advice for employers on good working practices.

Financial support for childcare

There are a number of financial support schemes currently available to working parents. You should make your workers aware of these, including:

  • Tax-Free Childcare - this allows eligible working families to claim 20% of their childcare costs, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child, per year (£4,000 for a child with a disability).
  • Universal Credit - entitlement will depend on household circumstances but Universal Credit can pay up to 85% of registered childcare costs, up to a maximum of £1,014.63 per month for one child, and £1,739.37 per month for two or more children. Eligible parents claiming Universal Credit are also able to get help with their childcare upfront, so that they can more easily pay their next set of costs.
  • Child Tax Credit - Tax Credits are being replaced by Universal Credit. It is now only possible to make a claim for Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit if you already receive the other type of Tax Credit.
  • Childcare Vouchers - some employees may also benefit from Childcare Vouchers offered through their employer, but only if they are already availing of the scheme. It is now closed to new applicants. However, parents may be able to avail of another form of support, such as Tax-Free Childcare, if they are no longer eligible.
  • Child Benefit - parents/guardians are eligible for Child Benefit if they are responsible for a child who is under 16 or under 20 years old if they stay in approved education or training. It is paid every four weeks and the current allowance is £25.60 per week for the eldest or only child; and £16.95 for every additional child.

Employees entitled to financial support towards childcare costs can only claim these benefits by using providers that are registered or approved with the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. There are different types of registered childcare available to parents including:

  • Registered childminder
  • Day nursery
  • Out of school care
  • Approved home child carer

Find a list of all childcare providers registered and approved with the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland.

Providing childcare provision

You may want to consider offering employees some form of childcare provision. This sort of employee benefit can improve:

  • staff morale
  • recruitment and retention
  • the availability of employees

You can help with childcare in a number of ways, eg by:

  • Making staff aware of the financial support available to meet their childcare costs - see financial support for childcare above.
  • Providing on-site childcare, ie a workplace nursery.
  • Offering childcare allowances - cash payments to allow employees to buy childcare services through a nursery or childminder.

See expenses and benefits: childcare.

Employer's guide to childcare

The Employer's Guide to Childcare highlights the financial support available to assist working parents with their registered childcare costs. The dedicated guidance also offers tips on how and when to engage with staff regarding childcare issues. There is also a list of contacts where employers and their staff can get further advice and help.

For further details, download Employer's Guide to Childcare - Supporting Employees to Access Childcare Support (PDF, 934K).