Government-funded childcare is set to change. Currently families in England are entitled to 15 hours free childcare each week for all 3 and 4 year olds, and for the most disadvantaged 2 year olds. This will be extended to 30 hours free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds, worth an additional £2,500 a year per child, across England from September 2017, with children in some areas benefiting early from September 2016. Parents will be able to claim if a) they earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week at the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage and b) each parent earns less than £100,000. The combined household income will not be taken into account.
These criteria also apply to the Government’s other flagship childcare programme offering ‘tax-free childcare’. Currently, some employers provide childcare vouchers worth up to £55 per week which are subject to a tax exemption and National Insurance contributions disregard. From 2017, the Government will introduce a new UK-wide Tax-free Childcare scheme enabling working parents to set up an on-line account to pay for the costs of childcare, with the Government contributing 20% of the costs for children up to age 12 (or 17 if your child is disabled) up to a maximum Government contribution of £2,000 a child per year (or £4,000 for a disabled child). The new system won’t rely on your employer setting up a scheme and will be available to self-employed parents too.
Other good news for working parents and grandparents: from 2018, shared parental leave and pay will be extended to working grandparents to give families greater flexibility and choice when balancing work with childcare. Consultation on these proposed changes will take place this year.
Tackling gender inequality in the workplace: the Government has announced plans to work with business to remove barriers to success for women and BME groups and to eliminate all-male boards in the FTSE 350. As part of this, larger employers will be required to publish information about their bonuses paid to employees a step towards improving gender pay gap reporting. Separately, an inquiry launched by the Women and Equalities Committee in early November is investigating why the pay gap is at its greatest for women over 40 and how to redress this inequality.
First published January 2016 on www.cityparents.co.uk