CAROLINA BRIÈRE – FOUNDER OF CHILDCARE LEVY

Tell us a bit about your background…
I’ve spent more than 18 years in the financial industry, working for various institutions including banks, brokers and trading houses. Most of my roles have been as a credit expert.

What inspired you to launch the Childcare Levy?
Childcare is like public transport – we all need it to get to work. It has to be available to ALL. However, the cost of childcare is the number one barrier for women wanting to go back to work. For some households, childcare costs will be higher than one parent’s earnings. In most cases, one parent will give up employment to lower the cost. As a result, mothers are pushed out of the workplace. It’s estimated that there are over 870,000 women currently at home who would go back to work if they had access to good quality childcare.

The lack of access has a negative impact on the UK economy when it comes to productivity levels and career opportunities. It also has a part to play in the existing pay gap between men and women, and for the shortage of skills within the workspace. We need companies to support this cost, not only for the benefit of women but for future economic growth.

What changes would you like to see put in place?

I want to see two changes in place

1) Companies to offer childcare arrangements as part of their benefits umbrella.

2) Companies to help employees with childcare costs.

With these two things in place, more women will be motivated and able to return to work. Getting companies to include childcare arrangements as part of their benefits umbrella isn’t about getting them to offer childcare solutions, but about putting their employees in contact with companies that do just that. Parental Choice (www.parentalchoice.co.uk) is one of those companies; they’re paid by employers for the benefit of employees. I use them personally, introducing them to my own company. We need this to be widely available to everyone.

Companies can help employees with childcare costs in two ways. Firstly, by offering employees a taxable allowance for an amount equivalent to the gross salary of the nanny, creche or nursery. Many people don’t know this, but they can ask their employers to pay the nanny or nursery directly, on their behalf. That payment is a taxable allowance with no P11 liability attached to it.

Secondly, companies can also help with childcare costs by offering an accrual account by which part of the employee’s salary is put into a separate account until such time that the employee has their first child, at which point the employee could start withdrawing funds from the account to cover childcare costs. Monies would not be transferable from company to company. The accrual account would have to be built within the employee’s contract and returned to the employee when leaving the company.  

How can AllBright members help the campaign?

It would be fantastic if members could introduce their companies to Childcare Levy to encourage them to include childcare arrangements as part of their benefits. It would also be helpful if any members close to government organisations could voice and introduce these proposals with the ultimate aim of implementing policy change.

How do you balance work and family life? Any advice for fellow working mothers?

With flexibility, determination and my husband’s support! Not to mention my fellow AllBright members.