We are all more likely than ever before to be balancing busy working lives with caring for those who depend on us – meaning that supporting working families has never been more important than it is today. Through talking to clients and parents in our nurseries, and through the feedback that we receive from users of our back-up care programme we know that getting care right means that more people can realise their true potential, whilst seeing those they love flourish too.
Each family has different family circumstances and requirements, and (as we reported in our Time Health and the Family study earlier this year) the care solutions and services we need are the ones that reflect the reality of the modern family unit – ‘sometimes complex, increasingly multigenerational, often geographically dispersed’.
Looking back over 2014 and ahead into 2015, I see a few key trends emerging.
1. Traditional Models of Care Responsibilities are shifting
This year the Right to Request flexible working was extended to all employees, bringing flexibility even further into the mainstream; in 2015 new Shared Parental Leave has the potential to introduce a whole new way of arranging work and care within families, moving away from traditional male/female divisions of childcare and offering a real opportunity for change. Whether new Dads feel able to take up this offer will be crucial to the success of this change.
2. ‘Prevention rather than cure’
Amongst our clients we are seeing an increased focus on developing flexibility and resilience in the workforce through many techniques; from mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy to programmes which use smartphone apps and other technology to. With time off for stress continuing to cost the economy millions each year, employers are increasingly taking the chance to develop their employees’ resilience levels to maintain optimum mental health.
3. Workplace Nurseries are firmly on the agenda
This year we’ve seen a real resurgence in interest for workplace nurseries from large employers. Changes to legislation this year (including the phasing out of the Tax and NIC exemption on employer-administered childcare voucher schemes) will financially impact parents, and means loss of NIC savings for employers too. Workplace nurseries are fast becoming one of the best ways for companies to truly support employees with their childcare needs.
4. Employers Are Increasingly Focused on Tangible ROI
As a large employer (and as recipients of the Best Benefits Branding Award at The Benefits Excellence Awards 2014) we fully understand that in challenging economic times organisations are choosing to focus on benefits that demonstrate a tangible ROI. From our own experience of saving our clients thousands of working days through back-up care we feel confident that our services will continue to deliver benefits to working families, enabling them to work safe in the knowledge that their families are being cared for.
5. Families want MORE
Time pressed families want more than just a traditional nursery provider. Our new (and we’re delighted to say already award-winning) Clapham Village Nursery was a direct response to demands from parents. In addition to excellent facilities for children this flagship nursery offers: a concierge service, a work room with computers and conference call facilities, a massage and osteopath service specially cooked meals to take home, and onsite yoga and Pilates.
This is also an emerging trend for users of our back-up care service; our new Care Direct programme allows employees to self-select on-going care with a focus on much more tailored, bespoke care options than typical searches offer.
Whatever 2015 brings, we will be here to support our clients and their families with services that make a positive difference to their work and family lives.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a restful break over the coming holiday and to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year from myself and from all of the team here at Bright Horizons Family Solutions.
Director of Employer & Strategic Partnerships