It’s almost here, every working parent’s worst nightmare, the summer holidays!!!
Those three words strike dread and fear into the hearts of working parents everywhere. Just how do you get through them unscathed? With the average annual school holidays being three times the annual leave that a full time working parent is entitled to take there is a big gap to fill. Aside from the practicalities, there is also the emotional toll of knowing that the summer break is supposed to be fun for your kids and a chance for your family to spend precious time together. The reality can prove to be stressful for all concerned.
Up until last year I had been fortunate to have my children in pre-school 50 weeks per year but this year my daughter started school and so I join many of you in the ‘great summer holiday conundrum”. This summer my care plan involves a week off for myself to go on holiday with the kids, a reciprocal care arrangement for odd days here and there with my sister in law, some time spent with their father, me working more flexibly than usual some days and asking for favours from friends to cover any emergencies.
It’s been a bit of a mission to put it all together but I think I have it sorted so here are my tips on how to survive the summer holidays.
There are two major components:
- Who is looking after the kids?
- How do you pay for the increased hours of care?
Who is looking after the kids?
A good starting point is a large printed calendar showing the first to the last day of the holidays. Firstly mark off the time that you and your partner (if you have one) are able to take time off, and then start looking at filling the gaps.
The following are options to consider:
- Can the grandparents or other relatives help out at all?
- Do the local nurseries run holiday clubs? Check with your local Family Information Service “FIS”.
- Can you set up reciprocal care arrangements with other working parents? If you take a day or week off and look after their children can they do the same for you?
- Can you find a local child minder willing to offer holiday care? Again check with your local FIS.
- Are you able to make flexible or homeworking arrangements for the period with your employer?
- Do the local council run activity days or play schemes? These are usually cheaper than private schemes.
- Can you arrange a nanny share with friends who have children of similar ages?
Some of these options may work for a significant chunk of the time, some for just a day or two. The key is fitting it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. Once you have it all worked out confirm back the arrangements to everyone involved to try to negate any problems before they arise.
Even with this careful planning you should still be prepared for a last minute emergency. If you get through six weeks of childcare arrangements without one mishap you’re pretty lucky. If you do run into a problem, don’t panic. All employees are entitled to reasonable unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependant. Whilst taking two weeks to care for a child during the holidays would not be reasonable, a couple of days to deal with an unexpected problem in children arrangements would be.
Please check out our page on parental leave: http://parentalchoice.co.uk/legal-rights/parental-leave
How do you pay for the increased hours of care?
Turn2us, part of the national financial assistance charity Elizabeth Finn Care, undertook a survey which showed that 70% of parents were worried about summer holiday childcare arrangements and 25% were concerned they would have difficulty paying normal household bills because of the increased cost of summer childcare.
There are no magic fixes for this problem. Government figures show that £6.5 billion of Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit is going unclaimed each year so a good starting point is making sure you are claiming everything you are entitled to. If you fall above the brackets to claim such benefits then unfortunately you are on your own. Make the best possible use of the free childcare options available to you and of any childcare vouchers that you may be entitled to from your employers. These can be used for registered holiday camps, child minders and Ofsted registered nannies. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you but be prepared to return favours. When looking at your household budgets make sure you plan in extra costs around school holidays and try to save a little extra towards them.
This is not the easiest time of year to be a working parent but the days are long, hopefully the sun will be shining and if that doesn’t cheer you up it will soon be September and you can get back to normal!
- How to Make Your Childcare Budget Stretch Further (savoo.co.uk)
- Childcare or Credit Repair: Where is Your Money Going? (lexingtonlaw.com)
- Budget day blues? (familyinvestments.co.uk)