Interest in the government’s new tax-free childcare scheme is growing among employers and working parents ahead of its autumn 2015 launch.
However, the new scheme only deals with childcare. What about carers of disabled adult or elderly family members?
At present, there is no similar scheme to provide employees with other caring responsibilities with financial support. These are employees who may have had to reduce working hours or even leave employment in order to meet their caring responsibilities.
The interests of most employers and employees are likely to be unified when it comes to support for caring. If the financial burden for caring can be reduced, then employers could avoid losing valuable staff and employees could keep working.
So, what would the ultimate care voucher look like? At the top of the list is a scheme that is transparent, with clear eligibility criteria, ease of use and with low administration involved.
Current childcare voucher schemes are offered by employers, but not all employers participate, so take-up has been restricted. The ultimate care voucher would be one administered by [HM Revenue and Customs] so that all eligible employees can access it and the administrative burden on employers would be reduced.
Individual care accounts, which permit employees and others to pay money into them, would be an attractive feature.
This could be modelled on the new childcare voucher scheme, which gives employees flexibility to pay in more in some months and less at other times, so money could be saved in the account for times when more caring support might be needed.
The ability to access accounts from smartphones and other digital devices might help increase ease of access.
Linking the scheme to registered carers, as with existing childcare voucher schemes, would make practical sense and a list of accepted registered carers could be made accessible from the government’s website.
While an earnings cap and a care assessment are likely to be necessary, these would be government managed, taking responsibility out of the hands of employee and employer.
At the end of the day, perhaps the ultimate voucher scheme is one where choice is in the hands of the employee, and employers can both retain staff and benefit from a wider pool of potential employees to hire from.
Suzanne Tyrrell is an employment lawyer at Taylor Wessing