Diversity Council Australia’s consultation with Australian business has found access to and availability of affordable childcare is causing major difficulties for Australian employers.
In preparing its submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, DCA consulted with employers and individual parents working in its member organisations and found childcare is a major issue affecting the participation of female employees in workplaces.
Employers reported that access to childcare presented major difficulties for their business:
- Nearly 95% said access to and availability of affordable childcare presented difficulties for their employees.
- An astonishing 97% reported that access to childcare limited the number of hours their employees were available to work.
- 95% described the impact of access to childcare on parents in their organisations returning to work from parental leave as significant or major.
- Close to half of employers who responded are already providing some kind of childcare support for their employees but demand is increasing with more than 85% expecting demand for childcare among their employees to increase in the next five years and close to 90% expecting it to increase over the next 10 years.
- Respondents said the Australian Government could do more to assist employers and their employees with childcare, especially in the area of regulation. 93% of employers said childcare expenses should be tax deductible for families, and nearly 85% supported extending existing government support to cover certain types of childcare not currently funded or to increase funding for specific types of childcare — for example providing regulated in-home care.
Parents and carers also reported significant problems with childcare:
- Close to half said problems with access to, or the flexibility, cost or quality of early childhood education and care were preventing them from undertaking work or were impacting on the number of hours they would prefer to work.
- Nearly 80% said they had experienced difficulties accessing suitable care for their child and close to 90% said this was due to a lack of services in their area or available places at the times they required.
Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO, said access to affordable and flexible childcare is clearly a major factor for employers and for women’s participation in employment.
“Our members tell us that childcare is one of the biggest issues affecting the participation of women employees in their organisations. Moreover, it has significant implications for the participation of women in the paid workforce in general, and can have long term and irreversible impacts on their career progression, income and lifelong financial security,” said Nareen.
“Leading practice employers are showing significant commitment to supporting parents, particularly mothers. Employer provided and/or supported childcare is of enormous assistance to parents returning to paid work, as is offering workplace flexibility, and financial and other incentives to encourage parents to return to the workplace. However, there are still few employers in a position to offer the full range of assistance.”
“We encourage the Australian Government to continue to focus on policies and programs which support businesses and assist parents, in particular mothers, to maintain their workforce attachment, to enable them to contribute to the best of their capacity to our nation’s workplaces,” concluded Nareen.
DCA recommends the Australian Government:
- Maintain a focus on expanding options for accessible, affordable and high quality childcare which offer mothers and their partners the ability to remain engaged in the paid workforce.
- Provide greater support to employers who invest in workplace childcare through reforming tax arrangements and introducing other incentives.
- Ensure that an emphasis on workplace flexibility is promoted and supported as a critical part of maintaining progress on workplace gender equity and supporting parents – especially those with younger children – to remain in paid work.
- Consider options for extending financial support for childcare including making childcare expenses tax deductible for families.
- Examine ways to increase care options for school age children including extending the opening hours of schools and increasing the availability of out-of-school-hours and vacation care.
- Closely monitor trends in women’s workforce participation, pay and retirement incomes as extended paid parental leave entitlements are introduced.
About the submission:
In developing its submission, DCA conducted a survey of its members in which we asked for feedback on the Commission’s issues paper, from employers and from individual parents working in their organisations. More than 40 different employers provided detailed information about their experiences with childcare.