Childcare: some nurses spend about 70% of wages on nursery costs

The cost of childcare is forcing workers to leave the NHS in pursuit of other work, warns charity as new figures reveal how low-paid workers struggle to pay

The cost of childcare is forcing workers to leave the NHS in pursuit of other work, warns charity as new figures reveal how low-paid workers struggle to pay

The cost of childcare is forcing workers to leave the NHS in pursuit of other work
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Nurses with young children with a full-time nursery place spend almost three quarters of their weekly salary on childcare costs, an analysis by Nursing Standard shows.

Childcare costs may be forcing nurses out of NHS

The cost is not only leaving nurses struggling to make ends meet but is forcing many, particularly women, to leave the health service for better paid jobs, the leader of a healthcare workers charity has warned.

It comes as new figures from Business in the Community (BITC) found families in England are spending about 65% of one parent’s weekly pay on childcare costs (based on the median weekly take-home pay of a working-age adult in England), with nursery fees for a child under two years costing about £274 per week.

Nursing Standard compared the average cost of childcare to the average nurse’s wage. A nurse on a band 5 salary of £27,055 a year takes home just under £389 a week, which means they will spend 70% of their weekly wage on childcare costs for one child under two years.

Nurses on lower salaries spend a much larger proportion. The weekly take-home pay of a band 3 nurse is £335.58, so around 82% of their weekly salary would go on full-time nursery fees for one child under two years.

Finding childcare is difficult for shiftworkers

Healthcare Workers’ Foundation (HWF) chief executive Julie Child warned people, especially women, are being forced out of the health service because of childcare costs and difficulties finding full-time care – with shiftworkers struggling even more.

‘It’s difficult enough when you’re working as a nurse because of shiftwork and everything else. Childcare is a juggle in itself, on top of having to find the money to pay for it,’ she said.

‘We know it disproportionately affects people in lower-paid jobs. We know of the difficulty finding childcare when you work shifts, weekends or nights. We know that people are leaving the healthcare service because of childcare, which is yet another issue to add to the table. So we’re trying to support that with the financial grants that we’re offering.’

HWF offers healthcare workers a range of support, including grants of up to £1,000 to cover childcare costs.

Nurses’ pay and childcare costs across England, Wales and Scotland

Country Nurses’ average pay (band 5)
annual/weekly take-home pay
Average full-time nursery cost per week Percentage of weekly pay packet
England £27,055/£389 £274 70%
Wales £27,055/£389 £247 63%
Scotland £26,104/£380 £213 56%

While childcare costs go down as a child gets older, it is not until a child is in school that costs reduce significantly.

BITC analysis shows that for a child aged between five and 11, an afterschool childminder in England costs £71 a week. That is roughly 18% of a band 5 nurse’s weekly take-home pay.

Petition calls for 30-hour free childcare scheme to be extended to students

Ms Child added there are ‘many voices calling for changes’ to childcare costs across the UK, which she says can be crippling for families, especially when a parent is in full-time education.

While most working parents can get up to 30 hours of free childcare a week when their child turns three, this is not available to students as they are not classed as workers.

A petition has been set up calling for the 30-hours scheme to be extended to nursing students, midwives and paramedics, whose study programmes are full time.

Most working parents, including nurses, are also eligible to claim an annual allowance worth between £2,000 and £4,000 through a government scheme to help with childcare costs.

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