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Returners' A-Z: Childcare

‘C’ on our Returners’ A-Z, as chosen by you, is Childcare and writing a CV. As we talk a lot about CVs, here is our take on childcare, what to think about and the steps you can take to reduce the costs involved!

It might seem like tempting fate to have a plan in place before you have even started looking for work, but employers will take great comfort in knowing you have thought about this and have a plan, even a loose one, ready to go. (Interviewers are not supposed to ask about childcare arrangements, but a lot of hiring managers have not been trained on how to interview and don’t know what they are allowed and not allowed to ask.)

The UK has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, with only Switzerland and New Zealand ranking higher than us. According to, in 2023 a part-time (25 hours) nursery place for a child under two costs on average £7,729 per year (52 weeks).

child playing with blocks

Which is insane.

So which factors should you consider before Returning to Work?

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers, only what will work best for you; and this is based, mainly, on what your priorities are.

If you are focused on getting your career back on track, and therefore looking for full-time roles, your considerations are going to differ greatly from someone who is looking for a low-stress job 2 days a week.

And vice versa. As I’ve said, its all about what is right for you. When you talk to your friends, or hear stories about others, appreciate that their priorities, children, family support, etc are probably all quite different, so what is right for them will also be different.

Don’t allow yourself to feel pressurised in to going one way or another, just because others say it’s works for them.

If you are looking to work part-time, you have a decision to make.

Childcare is typically charged by the half-day or full-day, so if you are looking to work 24hrs (3 days a week) you need to work out if that is going to be over 3, 4 or 5 days.

Childcare will work out cheaper if you work 3 full days, but it is easier to get a 24hr per week job that is spread across 4 or 5 days. So consider how flexible you can be.

Are you looking at pre-school or a nursery? Pre-schools are usually cheaper but follow school hours and are term-time only, whereas nurseries are often 7am-6pm and are open all year round. Again, think about what is right for you, because what is right for you will be right for your child.

little girl covered in paint

Research local registered child-minders. According to childminders cost, on average, £20 less per week than a nursery based on 25hrs per week. They also tend to be more flexible with timings, which can be a big help.

Family can be a big help, if they live close by, just remember to think about cover for when they go on holiday (which could be often!).

Consider arrangements with friends and neighbours. Can you take their child to day care, and they do the pick-up? This can reduce the number of hours you have to pay for and offer more flexibility.

You could also share days. You could each look after each other’s child one day a week, reducing your reliance on child care providers and, again, saving you money.

You should also never assume that you know everything there is to know about government support. The criteria for tax-free childcare and free hours do change and shift, so what was true for your first child may be different for your second. is a good resource to check what you are eligible for.

In summary, think carefully about what sort of arrangement is going to work best for you. Check prices and availability and have a plan in place that is going to work for you. Nobody else. You.

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