Survey finds over half of preschools & crèches nationwide would close if Minister for Social Protection’s sick pay proposal is implemented

Over half of preschools and crèches nationwide would close if required to pay the first month’s sick pay for absent staff, if Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton’s sick pay proposal is implemented. This is according to sick pay survey published 1st August by Early Childhood Ireland, the representative group for preschools, daycare (crèches) and afterschool services supporting 80,000 children and their families nationally.


Key findings of sick pay survey published 1st August by Early Childhood Ireland, the representative group for preschools, daycare (crèches) and afterschool services supporting 80,000 children and their families nationally

• According to a survey conducted in July 2012 by Early Childhood Ireland and published Wednesday 1st August, 97% of childcare providers say they could not afford to pay for the first 4 week’s sick leave, as suggested by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton’s proposal to transfer responsibility for paying sick pay from her department to employers. This is due to the fact replacement staff must be brought in for the sick employees, in order to keep ratios in line with the childcare regulations.
• Over half of the preschool and daycare (crèche) respondents from around the country said they would have to close down their service if they were required to pay the first month’s sick pay for absent staff.
• 37% said they would have to make staff redundant as a consequence of the sick pay proposal being implemented.
• The average cost per service of absenteeism in the last 12 months was €2028, with only 26% of those surveyed currently paying for certified sick leave and 20% paying for uncertified sick leave, with the amount of days paid varying and dependant on the employee’s individual contract and length of service.
• 42% of childcare services said they would increase their fees to stay afloat if Minister Burton’s proposal is implemented, while others said that staff wages would have to be cut as there is no option to increase fees within the ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) free preschool scheme.
• The survey also highlights that many small early childcare and education services are struggling financially in this difficult economic climate and some managers would have to forfeit their own wages if the sick pay proposal was introduced.
• It was also noted that many parents are struggling to pay childcare costs in the current economic situation.
• The bulk of respondents were from small businesses employing less than 10 people.

According to Irene Gunning, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, “This sick pay proposal is absolutely 100% wrong for the childcare sector and would drive many people out of business and straight onto the dole queue. We are alarmed that this sick pay proposal is back on the Government agenda because of recent comments from the IMF that Ireland is out of line on sick pay. This proposal is out of line and we are seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Burton to discuss the findings of our survey. Because of the strict ratios of adults to children in the childcare sector, our members will end up paying on the double for the same work and this would be the last straw for many of them, already struggling to keep their doors open.”

Full survey published on 1st August 2012 – Early Childhood Ireland represents 3,300 childcare professionals who manage preschool and daycare centres nationwide supporting over 80,000 children and their families.

Sample comments from survey participants:
‘If I have to pay on the double it will be the end of my small service. I may as well shut the doors! No other industry would work for what we get paid.’
‘I am operating my crèche at a loss at present. With funding training courses to increase quality, I cannot and will not pay staff for absenteeism. If paying sick pay for staff becomes mandatory I will have no choice but to close my business.’
‘As it is we are running on our overdraft due to the lower capitation for ECCE (free preschool scheme) and unpaid weeks, it is just a non-runner for us to have to pay sick leave.’
The parent’s fees are already stretched to cover public holidays and 4 weeks statuary holidays, so to include a month’s sick pay also would increase fees to an unaffordable rate
‘This is just not feasible, along with all other monthly outgoings, it will in time just put an extra NINE more people on the dole queue.’
‘I would have no choice but to lay off staff & open for 4 days instead of 5, this would lead to more people on the dole. Surely it will cost the State more in the long run. We earn little enough as it is. They will undo the improvements however small to childcare provision in Ireland.’
‘I have two classes with smaller ratios for children that are moving from the special needs room and children that have difficulties and need higher ratios. I would have to close these two rooms and my dedicated special needs room.’

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