Myth-busting methods for childcare voucher engagement
Resident childcare voucher engagement specialist for Asperity, Daisy Hill, looks at overcoming the challenges faced by employers to increase participation in their childcare voucher programmes.
“Am I being unreasonable to be really mad that you can’t use childcare vouchers down the pub?” (Mumsnet online forum)
A quick search on parenting hub Mumsnet reveals the confusion that often surrounds a childcare voucher scheme. Luckily the above blunder was swiftly counteracted with ‘find me an Ofsted-registered pub and I’ll be there like a shot!’, but not all myths are so easily debunked. Many parents are missing out on huge annual savings of up to £933, either because they perceive signing up and the salary sacrifice aspect to be too much hassle, or they believe other myths about who the scheme applies to, and what the vouchers are used for.
Combatting these falsehoods can be as simple as communicating the range of options available for spending the vouchers to the parents at your company. Seasonal campaigns such as promotion of childcare voucher (CCV) use at Summer camps and after-school clubs in September can help. However, it is often the case that regular users of CCVs for nurseries are completely unaware of these avenues and so drop off the scheme. If a voucher provider then targets their communication of the programme to those that have cancelled, employers will see significant re-application to the scheme (and a significant boost in their NI savings!)
Whilst CCV is often a tricky subject for employers to tackle, at the very least a provider should have a savings guidance calculator for employees and point them in the direction of HMRC. Ideally a CCV provider should also run a 7 day a week helpdesk, with experts available to guide parents through the options and usage of the programme.
Indeed, in organisations where pay is a sensitive issue, it is often better to cut right to the chase and target those who are eligible. Concerns are often expressed by major retail organisations for example, that non-targeted marketing will confuse part-time employees and those on or near National Minimum Wage. However, a mistake is often made in the failure to promote the scheme at all, instead of getting the right communications to the right people – on higher earners’ payslips, for example.
In fact, effective gender-specific communication can also prove crucial in increasing the uptake of childcare vouchers amongst employees. We don’t need a landmark-scaling father in a Batman costume to remind us that we are firmly out of the dark ages in terms of the family patriarch taking responsibility for childcare.
A recent report by the Equality and Human Rights commission has confirmed that social ideals are undergoing comprehensive change, with a greater number of fathers than mothers believing it is a joint responsibility to care for the children¹.
However, a third more females than males take up childcare vouchers². Therefore, marketing the benefit to fathers specifically is an important part of any successful CCV programme to increase awareness of the benefit amongst the male contingent.
Good communication often works by challenging the misconception that only one parent in a family can take up the voucher scheme, and that a parent who doesn’t live with the children can sign up too.
Once signed up, parents are not only passionate about their own savings but are very likely to recommend CCV to friends and colleagues. A few employers, who have already worked with their provider to encourage high take up of the scheme, have begun to harness the influence of self-appointed ‘childcare champions’ in the workplace. Companies are now introducing ‘Refer a Friend’ schemes via their provider as the next stage in a successful and profitable communication strategy.
It goes without saying that offering a childcare voucher scheme goes a long way in attracting and retaining the best people in a company. And certainly not many myths revolve around ‘Ofsted-registered pubs.’ However, de-bunking the common myths that can form a self-constructed barrier to employees, whilst actively promoting this benefit to those who really need it, is the key to a successful voucher programme and the mark of a good provider.
1 EHRC (2009b). Working Better: fathers, family and work contemporary perspectives. Research summary 41. London: Equality and Human Rights Commission
2 Vital-Statistics-How-employee-demographics-affect-benefit-design.pdf on www.employeebenefits.co.uk