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Well, I somehow found myself on Radio Four this week talking about childcare and pensions... I actually enjoyed myself but came out of doing it with a big dilemma

29/05/2015

 

I've been passed the torch...

Having successfully avoided giving any interviews on childcare for many years, I was roped into being questioned on the Today programme on the subject of pensions for nannies. Obviously I was the last resort. Our lovely PR lady had tried everyone else in the company to see if they were willing to speak. But the fact that it was on a Bank Holiday Monday at 7am meant that my colleagues were mysteriously unavailable. So they had no choice but to ask me.

And I surprised myself in that I actually enjoyed the experience. I would have preferred to know in advance that they were going to question me on the actual mechanics of setting up a pension scheme, but I think I managed to wing it.

Why is the issue of nanny pensions in the news?

The government introduced the idea of pensions for all eligible employees a couple of years ago now, under the meaningless title "Auto Enrolment". They started with companies with large workforces and are now rolling it out to smaller employers. The regulations make it compulsory for employers to set up a scheme, whether they employ hundreds of staff or just one.

And that's the problem. I imagine it has come as a bit of a shock to families who hire nannies as they didn't expect the regulations to apply to them.

Should nannies be included in the scheme?

The answer is: absolutely. Nannies should be treated like any other professional workforce. And at Tinies we will always champion the rights of nannies to be treated fairly and be recognised as a vital part of the childcare workforce (which all too often they are not).

But what I don't agree with, is the government adding another financial burden on working parents, who are already struggling to pay for childcare. The contributions may be relatively small but any additional cost is not welcome, particularly as these parents pay for nannies out of taxed income without any help from government.

A nanny may be their only childcare option

Westminster bangs on about helping working mums go back to work, but always focusses on offering free places at nurseries. What they fail to realise is that a free nursery place isn't the best childcare option for most families, particularly those working long or irregular hours. A nanny is often their only option.

Gone are the days when nannies were the preserve of the rich. Most of the parents that register with Tinies are working class parents, who leave their homes before 7 in the morning and aren't home until 7 at night. A nursery and a childminder can't accommodate those hours.

There are no tax breaks offered to working parents hiring a nanny, other than the very limited childcare vouchers. Which means working parents are paying both the salary and tax for their nanny, out of their already taxed income.

There's the problem

Which means I'm in a dilemma. On the one hand I totally agree that nannies should be included in any pension provisions, but on the other I sympathise greatly with working parents. After all, I am one of them and will be hit by the additional cost.

On a lighter note, and bringing it back to my all-important '5 seconds of fame', the radio interview was so early in the morning that I didn't expect anyone to hear it. Except for my lovely boys back at home (including the "big" one), who had set their alarms to hear my debut. I came home to rapturous applause from my youngest:

"Mummy, you were great!"

"Thank you darling."

"I've no idea what you were talking about though."

"Well, darling, that makes two of us."

Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director

 
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