Article by Caroline Hong, which appeared in the July 2012 issue of the My Business magazine and also on MSME news network.
Is there a child in your business?
It is not uncommon to see business owners bring their children to their workplace.
It’s time to air some thoughts about childcare. There has been a childcare crisis in Australia for some time. Waiting times can be several years. Childcare workers are leaving the childcare industry in droves. More than 50 per cent of children under 12 years old are in some form of childcare. How is this affecting SMEs?
Our PM Julia Gillard recently held a Child Care Summit in Sydney to talk to providers and relevant unions in the childcare industry. Opposition leader, Tony Abbott will call for an urgent Productivity Commission review of childcare in Australia, should the Coalition win the next election, to make the entire childcare system more flexible.
A lot more people need to be heard by the childcare industry, such as the diverse groups and types of working parents, the people who believe that childcare expenses should be a tax deductible expense, and business owners whose businesses are affected when there are no affordable quality accessible childcare services available to them and their staff. For many years, women have advocated that childcare expenses should be a tax deductible expense. For some women, it is actually costing them more money to be working than not, but they feel they have to continue to work in order to retain their registration in their profession or risk losing their employability altogether.
I often hear about the struggles of business owners having to juggle parental duties and childcare arrangements with their business responsibilities. I’m pleased to see many men, of all ages, taking a more active and equal role in parenting and childcare responsibilities – a major shift in society in the last decade. Australian laws grant parental leave for men when their partners or wives have a baby. However, we do not have data to show if men or women take more or less time off if they are business owners than if they are employees.
The childcare industry in Australia is a large industry, yet waiting periods can be several years. Parents may drop out of childcare, and it is usually the women who would drop out of the workforce to care for their children. We do see men make that option, usually because the woman is the higher income earner or when the man is able to take advantage of work friendly policies. It is not uncommon to see business owners, particularly SME owners, bring their children to their workplace. Many women set up businesses so that they can work from home and care for their children. They still have to work the hours, but differently, in order to combine the parental and childcare responsibilities.
Julia Gillard says government will need to play its part and so do childcare providers. We may see benefits if government can subsidise the wages of early childhood teachers working in the childcare industry. Childcare workers are underpaid compared to school teachers and unfortunately many are leaving the sector in droves and there is a shortage of early childhood staff across Australia. Opposition leader Tony Abbott wants to introduce a paid parental leave policy and funding nannies for working families, should the Coalition win the next election. The Productivity Commission review would also look at the role businesses can play in incorporating greater flexibility into their own workplaces.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that in June 2011 1.9 million children attended childcare. That’s a lot of children in childcare. Childcare businesses are selling currently for anything from $300,000 to more than $3 million in Australia, depending on the location, quality of the premises, staff, turnover, number of child placements and much more. Many are operating as a small business, with less than 19 employees, yet they can be multi-million dollar businesses.
Given that childcare is becoming a focal point in politics with possible reforms on the horizon, will we see the childcare business as a booming industry? Can we see some business opportunities here to increase participation and productivity for a better Australia? There are business opportunities for SMEs to provide training and education for childcare workers. There are opportunities for SME business advisory services to assist business owners of childcare businesses. There are business opportunities for SME recruitment companies to help address the recruitment needs of the childcare industry. And the list goes on.
Childcare reforms and government support may bring relief for working parents who are dependent on childcare. Some bigger companies are providing childcare services for staff, as a staff incentive and retention strategy for their business.
It has been found that many business owners who invest in childcare benefits or services for their employees see a positive impact on their bottom line. This is often due to improved employee morale, reduced absenteeism, increased in productivity and increased community engagement.
Is the childcare issue in Australia affecting you, your staff and your business? Is there a child in your business?
With acknowledgement and thanks to MyBusiness http://mybusiness.com.au You can also subscribe for the digital edition on http://mybusiness.realviewdigital.com/
My Business is the official publication of the SME Association of Australia http://www.smeaustralia.asn.au
Contact Caroline Hong: email@example.com
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