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Employers 'unclear' of role in childcare vouchers

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The Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) has called on the Government to provide guidelines on whether employers will continue to play a key role in providing childcare support following reforms to the scheme.

A study of 1,600 employers from the CVPA found 70% 'disagree' or are 'unsure' whether the changes are a positive step.

Earlier this month the Government expanded the number of people who have access to childcare vouchers, which comes in the form of Tax Free Childcare (TFC).

TFC builds on the existing scheme, but will enable parents to open online voucher accounts themselves, cutting out employers. The Government will then match 20% of the childcare costs up to a cap of £1,200 per child.

Under the current scheme, parents can only claim the vouchers if their employer has signed up to the scheme.

The CVPA said the role of the employer in the current childcare voucher scheme has been a fundamental reason for its success.

The study found the voucher scheme is the only link that exists between employers and childcare support for employees, and is an important part of an employer's retention strategy.

CVPA board member and head of reward at Grass Roots Group Paul Bartlett told HR magazine the new proposals offer "little or no role" for employers and they remain unclear whether they can or want to support the new arrangements.

"The communications from the Government have not discussed a role for the employer and have only offered it as point for respondents to their consultation exercise," said Bartlett.

"There remains significant detail on the operation of the scheme that needs to be communicated and until this happens, people (including employers) will not be in a position to fully make up their mind."

Although the Government intends to close the current scheme to new joiners in 2015, existing members will be able to continue using it if their employer maintains a scheme.

A 12-week consultation on the scheme started on 5 August.