Childcare Campaign: How employers can help mothers

WOMEN say they would be more likely to take up full-time work if employers paid for part of their childcare costs, according to a new MORI poll due to be published today.

Almost half of women polled but particularly young women from low income families said they would be encouraged to swap part-time for full-time work if they were given help.

The poll conducted for the Kids' Club Network and Childcare Vouchers Ltd (CCV) also said that the main benefits to employers would be lower absenteeism and increased loyalty to their work.

Last week, The Independent launched its campaign for tax allowances for working women urging the Chancellor to invest in the future by making quality childcare more affordable.

The MORI poll of 445 women found that at the moment relatives or friends are the main providers of both out-of- school care and childcare during working hours. Childminders are used predominantly by professional full- time workers in the south of England. Around one in ten women use nurseries, while a tiny minority (4 per cent) have access to after-school clubs.

Only a quarter of working women have taken annual leave to be at home or go on holiday with children during school holidays and one in seven pay childminders during the holidays.

Nearly a third of women said that they would have increased loyalty towards their employees if they were given help - with the feeling being greatest among full-time middle-class working women with high incomes. One in ten women said that help would attract and retain high-calibre female staff.

Today, the CCV and Kids' Club Network will launch a voucher scheme, an initiative which enables employers to contribute directly to working parents' out-of-school childcare and holiday childcare costs. The "School's Out Voucher" aims to cover around 50 per cent of average costs. The employer would pass the voucher on to their employee who would be able to redeem it at a KCN club.

The launch will be attended by Alan Howarth, the minister with responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's national childcare strategy.

"The MORI/CCV research shows the Government's commitment to increase the number of out of school places is on the right track," said Sue Harvey, managing director of CCV. "Importantly it also highlights the fact that those families most likely to benefit from the extra places - families who are unable to pay childminders or nannies - will not be able to take them up as they cannot afford the costs, and rely on the generosity of relatives and friends."

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, said: "With two out of every three families now working, families' affordable childcare provision is an absolute necessity to avoid the stresses and strains of balancing the home/work dilemma.

"During school time the problems are minimised but the real pressures occur in the periods before and after school and in particular during the school holidays. This type of scheme is an absolute necessity not only for the increasing number of working families but also for the overall success of UK plc."