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.
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.