Should parents have to pay nursery fees when their kid is too sick to go?
There are many downsides to having a sick kid, but one that people rarely discuss is the fact you have to pay nursery fees even when your little one is too ill to go. This might not seem like a big deal to non-parents, but given a lot of nurseries now charge in excess of £70 per day, a nasty bout of chicken pox or hand, foot and mouth can cost parents whose children are under the age of three over £350 per week per child – and that’s before you even think about any income they’ve lost through having to take time off work.
Hold on, part I: Why did you single out parents with children under the age of three? I did it, because the government offers 30 hours of free childcare to children aged three and four.
Hold on, part II: You’ve mentioned lost income, but surely parents get sick pay for any time they take off work to look after their poorly children? You do if you work in a PAYE role. But if you are a member of the nation’s rapidly growing self-employed community (15% of the UK’s labour force and counting), then you have no sick pay and thus will suffer an extremely unpalatable financial double whammy.
Nursery fees are too high
So what do I suggest we do about this situation? Simple, we launch a social media smear campaign against any nursery owner who has the temerity to charge parents more than £5 an hour (#toddleoff). Actually, hold that hashtag, because I’m only joking.
Although I agree that today’s nursery fees are way too high, I do not believe that these establishments should foot the bill for my kid’s absence. That said, I also don’t think that I should have to pay. Thus my solution is a little thing I like to call nursery insurance.
Nursery insurance Option A
In my head, nursery insurance could exist in two ways. The first option works like car insurance, home insurance and most other private insurances you can think of – i.e. you pay a monthly premium to be covered and an excess when you make a claim against your nursery fees.
The upside of this is it gives the parents of an ill child the opportunity to reclaim their nursery fees from a third party. The downside is our little darlings get sick all the time, so the premiums and excesses are likely to be fairly expensive.
Nursery insurance Option B
The second option would essentially be an opt-in version of National Insurance. Intrigued? You should be, because I think this idea has real legs. Here’s how it would work.
- The government announces a new opt-in tax called Nursery Insurance.
- Parents who are interested in receiving the state benefit of having their nursery fees repaid in the event of their child not attending through illness inform their employer (or the HMRC if they are self employed) that they would like to sign up for Nursery Insurance.
- a) If you are a signed-up PAYE worker, the government begins to take a (very small) monthly amount of Nursery Insurance from your wages.
b) If you are a signed-up self-employed worker, the HMRC sends you a quarterly invoice for Nursery Insurance payments.
- In the event of their child being ill, parents who pay Nursery Insurance reclaim a full refund for their nursery fees from their childcare provider.
- The childcare provider reclaims this money from a central pot that the government has amassed through Nursery Insurance.
- I get voted Man of the Year, Dad of the Year and Person of the Year.
- We all live happily ever after.
Done that? Great, now have a fantastic evening. Until next time…