Nurseries and childminders have been urged to be “reasonable and balanced” over charges to parents during coronavirus-related closures.
In new guidance to the early years sector, the Government does not say that families must not be charged.
But it says that parents will also be facing great uncertainty and indicates that childcare providers should take this into account when dealing with mothers and fathers.
Like England’s schools, nurseries and childminders are also officially closed, but many are remaining open to care for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers, including medics, police and delivery drivers.
There were indications that some parents may be unhappy about being asked to still pay towards their child’s care even if their youngster was unable to attend due to closures.
The guidance says: “We are working hard to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19) on all parts of our society, including individuals and business.
“We urge all childcare providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents, given the great uncertainty they will be facing too.”
The guidance says measures are being placed to support early years providers and the Government “will be keeping what further support businesses may require under close review”.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Whether or not a parent is required to pay fees will depend on the terms and conditions in their individual contract with their childcare provider.
“That said, we know of many providers that are choosing not to charge parents who aren’t able to access care during this period, despite the detrimental financial impact this is likely to have on their provision.”
He added that it is a “constantly changing situation” and while announcements about financial support are positive, they are “piecemeal and fragmentary” in nature, leaving providers adjusting to Government changes.
Mr Leitch added: “As such, it may well be that some providers are willing to offer more flexibility on the existing terms of their contracts than they originally thought, and it’s worth noting that Government has asked settings to be ‘reasonable and balanced’ in their dealings with parents.”
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Whether parents continue to pay fees when a closure is outside of a nursery’s control will depend on the agreements between individual nurseries and their parents.
“Nurseries are vital now as ever to support children of key workers and vulnerable children so we need them to be staffed and operational. They need to be able to pay their staff to maintain continuity when this settles down.
“Recruitment is already a major issue in the sector and nurseries do not want to lose their committed, trained staff. The government financial support is welcome but it’s only part of their income.
“As nobody knows how long this very challenging situation will continue for, we know that many nurseries are working with parents to reach an acceptable agreement.
“Childcare providers need to ensure they have enough income to keep the business running and be able to re-open with a full complement of staff once all parents can go back to work.”