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Benefits and help for parents going back to work

If you're going back to work and you've got children, you can get financial and practical help with childcare. From tax credits to flexible working arrangements, there's lots of support available to make your life easier.

Early years education

All three and four year olds are entitled to twelve-and-a-half hours of free early years education a week, for 38 weeks a year, with a 'registered provider' such as a school, nursery or playgroup, regardless of income or circumstances.

Some large employers provide registered early years education at the workplace. You can also use a registered childminder if they're part of an approved childminding

Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit

Child Tax Credit is an income-related allowance for parents and carers of children or young people who are still in full-time education. Nine out of ten families with children qualify for Child Tax Credit.

Working Tax Credit

If you're working more than 16 hours a week and you're on a low income, you may be able to get Working Tax Credit too.

The Working Tax Credit includes a specific element to support the cost of registered or approved childcare for working parents. The childcare element can help with up to 80 per cent of your eligible childcare costs.

There are limits on the weekly costs you can claim. If you pay childcare for:

  • one child, the maximum you can claim is £175 a week
  • two or more children, the maximum is £300 a week

Time off and flexible working

Time off ('parental leave')

If you're a working parent, you can take up to 13 weeks parental leave for each child until their fifth birthday (you get more than this if you have a disabled child). Your employer doesn't have to pay you when you take this leave, but they might as part of your employment package.

Flexible working

Flexible working lets you ask your employer for a new working pattern to help you care for your child. You have a right to request a flexible working pattern if you've got a child aged under six or a disabled child under 18. Your employer has to consider your request seriously.

To have the right to ask for flexible working, you must:

  • have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • be the child's mother, father, adopter, legal guardian or foster parent - or be the partner of one of these
  • have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • be making the application so that you'll be able to care for the child

You'll need to fill in an application form when you apply for flexible working. You can only make one application a year.

Job Grant

Job Grant is a tax free lump sum you may get when you start full-time work (at least 16 hours a week). You'll get it if you (and your partner if you have one) are aged 25 or over and you've been getting one or more of these benefits for at least 26 weeks before you started work:

  •  Income Support
  •  Jobseeker's Allowance (both types)
  •  Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

For lone parents and couples with children the grant is £250. (If you or your partner are under 25 years, different rules may apply.)

Child Maintenance Bonus and Child Maintenance Premium

Anyone receiving Income Support (IS) or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA(IB)), who is getting maintenance for a child or children, may be eligible for the Child Maintenance Bonus. The bonus builds up at £5 a week up to a maximum of £1,000 and is paid as a one-off lump sum when you find work, or when your working hours increase to a level where you no longer get IS or JSA(IB).

However, the Child Maintenance Bonus is not available under the new child support scheme, introduced for new cases from 3 March 2003.

Instead, anyone who cares for a child and who is getting IS or JSA (IB) will keep up to £10 a week of any maintenance paid for their children. This is known as the Child Maintenance Premium.

If you are covered by the old scheme, you'll continue to build up the bonus until you are transferred to the new scheme.

Getting help from your employer

Many employers now offer their employees help to pay for childcare, this can include:

  • paying you cash to pay for childcare
  • paying the childcare fees directly
  • paying the child’s school fees

Should your employer offer any of the above, you will be liable for tax and national insurance contributions on whatever aid is given. There are other types of childcare support your employer could provide however, without you having to pay tax or national insurance contributions. These are:

  • childcare vouchers
  • directly contracted childcare
  • workplace nurseries

For more information on the different types of help you could get from your employer, download the leaflet below.

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