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The purpose of this guidance is to outline the introduction of the new Government Tax-Free Childcare scheme (TFC) and the implications for Childcare Vouchers offered by the University to eligible staff.



The launch of the Government’s tax-free childcare scheme (TFC) was delayed in 2015 due to legal challenges raised by the Childcare Voucher companies. It was finally introduced on 24 April 2017. Currently the scheme is open to parents with children who were under 4 years old on 31 August 2017, but it should be rolled out to parents of older children soon. Parents who are eligible will be able to take advantage of the scheme until their child is 12 years of age, or 17 years if they are disabled. 

Tax Free Childcare covers up to 20% of approved childcare costs, to a maximum claim of
£2,000 per year, per child. The scheme is also open to the self-employed. To be eligible both parents must be working 16 or more hours a week and earn at least £120 per week but less than £100k per annum. Parents manage their own account on-line and employers have no role in the administration of the scheme, but there's no NI saving for either the employee or employer.


Childcare Voucher Schemes, such as the University’s salary sacrifice scheme administered through Computershare, have been available for employers to run as a benefit since 2005 but they will only stay open to new entrants until April 2018.   

Parents who are already in this scheme may opt to continue until their children reach the age of 16 years old (17 years if registered disabled), or they may switch to TFC, so long as they meet the TFC eligibility criteria and their child is the correct age.

The most beneficial option will depend on each individual family’s circumstances (i.e. income levels and tax position) but many may still be better off in the Computershare scheme, so it is important that they act before the April 2018 deadline.


Action required/by whom

It is important that interested parents find out which scheme works best for them, and that they do this in advance of the closure of employer-run schemes to new entrants in April 2018.

HR are planning various communications to staff over the coming months, the first of which has been added to OU Life (24th November) and the HR intranet “News” area.  The aim of the communication plan is to:

-        Highlight that TFC is now available for some parents

-        Educate parents about both the TFC scheme and Childcare vouchers scheme

-        Advise that the University scheme will close to new entrants by April 2018

-        Promote the existing University scheme benefits, to encourage further uptake, where appropriate

-        Publicise a planned staff drop-in session with Computershare on Thursday 11th January 2018 in Milton Keynes


Units are requested to highlight this change to their staff.


Computershare have developed the following: Give Yourself a Choice website as well as a Decision Tree tool, that helps parents navigate through a series of simple questions to find out which scheme (childcare vouchers or TFC) is best for them and their family.



The University’s salary sacrifice scheme, administered through Computershare, will only stay open to new entrants until April 2018.


Further information

The University scheme continues to perform very well. For core staff (i.e. excluding ALs), uptake is around 20%, which is extremely high. The average monthly voucher value is £182, which is well above the industry average. These indicators show this is currently a valued benefit for many of our employees

Computershare has advised that they will keep the University scheme open for as long as we have employees registered and that we will continue to benefit from employer’s NI savings.

Further information concerning the University scheme this can be found at: Childcare Vouchers Scheme Guidance and the Computershare website: www.computersharevoucherservices.com



For further advice please call the HR Service Centre on 01908 (8)58567 or by email to


Here is a reminder that the closing date for Winter Fuel Grant is Friday 16th February 2018.



information/ form on the website.


 Kevin Clay who has been at the Open University for 36 years retired today and will be having a very well deserved rest. He has been a fantastic colleague and friend to everyone that knows him.


Kevin has been a long standing Unison Officer with many years of experienceproviding support and advice on daily basis. His dedication and commitment to his Unison role has been consistent throughout his long years of service.


We are extremely fortunate that Kevin will still be working for Unison as Retired Members Officer and he will occasionally be popping in to see how things are going.


Kevin's role will be handed over to Health and Safety Officer Graham Wakley. 


"I have known Kevin as a colleague, and friend, for many years and I am honoured to be given a chance to try to continue his work within the OU Branch, UNISON.  He has worked tirelessly to ensure that our Members are supported to the best of his ability and I hope that I will be up to the challenge!"


We would all like to thank Kevin and wish him well for the future.

Just a short note to wish all of our members a Happy New Year.

We will be developing a Facebook and Twitter page very shortly - please keep looking for updates.


Picture of Rodney Bickerstaffe
Picture of Rodney Bickerstaffe
Former General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe

Sadly, Rodney Bickerstaffe – former General Secretary of both UNISON and NUPE – died today, Tuesday 3 October 2017.
Rodney, or Bick as he was known to many, was a great personal friend to many of us and a dedicated champion of all the union members he proudly represented throughout his career. He coupled a great sense of humour and love of laughter with a deep-rooted sense of social justice and commitment to UNISON.
Our thoughts are with Rodney’s family, especially his wife Pat who was an ever present support to him in all his work and was the love of his life.
At the time of Rodney’s death it is worth reflecting on his response during the Winter of Discontent to the question “what about the dignity of the dead?”, Rodney replied ‘“what about the dignity of the living?’ We at UNISON hold this truth close – and we will continue Rodney’s fight to ensure dignity for our members, our families and all in our communities.
When asked what he believed his greatest achievements were, he would respond: the National Minimum Wage and the creation of UNISON. I’m sure many of us recall the powerful speeches and advocacy he provided to deliver these goals. Rodney was at his best when he was fighting for the causes he believed in, and our movement has today lost one of the greatest campaigners and orators of his generation.
Everyone involved in our union will share in the grief felt at Rodney’s passing. He was a friend, a comrade and a leader, and thanks to his work the lives of countless people have been changed for the better.
A private family funeral will be held for Rodney, and his family have requested no flowers but for any donations to be made to either Marie Curie or the International Brigade Memorial Trust.
Please send any cards or letters to Jasmin Johnson, UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2AY ().
UNISON will organise a memorial event for Rodney at which we can celebrate his life, humour and comradeship.
Rodney was the very best of us, a true giant of our movement and we will all miss him greatly.

Donations to commemorate Rodney can be made to two charities he held particularly dear:


Dave Prentis
UNISON general secretary