To create the ideal care voucher, it is important to first determine what a carer is, and have this acknowledged across the board.
Clearly, childcare is a key consideration, and such a voucher should include every working parent as standard. But it should also list every employee who has an elderly dependant to worry about.
As flexible working becomes more commonplace, what about people who need to work flexibly in order to perform other caring responsibilities? What about those who look after pets? Does that require a separate definition? Are they not carers? Or should we extend the definition of carer to include animals as well?
To keep things simple, let’s assume that carer applies only to working parents and carers of adult dependants. I think the stressed-out working dog owner is a few years away from being given the same level of support in the UK (although they’re getting closer in the US).
The perfect care voucher would support all carers when they need it most. Of course, there is an easy way to make that happen. Draft the scope of carer widely, allow the care voucher to be used in a variety of circumstances, and make payroll departments responsible for policing it.
The ultimate care voucher needs to do three key things. First, it should help employees find the right care solution, which is often a bigger stress than the financial challenge of actually paying for the care. So it should be available to pay for a care search service or an agency fee.
Secondly, it should allow employees to pay for all types of care, including nurseries, childminders, holiday clubs, nannies, care homes and care agencies.
And finally, it should find and pay for emergency care when normal arrangements have broken down, which happens more often than people would like or are prepared to admit.
Andy Major is director of the GoodCareGuide.co.uk