I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies …….. Would I be employed or self employed?   2 comments

Third in the series of my  ‘I have been wondering ….’ blogs

The information available at the moment is confusing to say the least about if an agency childminder would be employed or self employed.

It appears no one really knows what these childminding agency models will look like – and my best guess at the moment, is that they will all be different, possibly very different – and could include self employed models and employed models.

As an independent Ofsted registered childminder, I am self employed – and nearly all registered childminders are currently self employed – the rare exception being where two registered childminders work together and one (usually the one whose house is used for childminding) employs the other one, but it is rare, as if the second childminder does other work such as babysitting or looking after children in his or  her own home on other days, then they remain self employed.

To be clear, I am NOT considering becoming an agency childminder – but what if I was? I would certainly want to know what my employment status was and I would certainly want details about the differences between self employed status and employed status

I consider being a self employed childminder to mean;

I decide on my fees and my opening days / hours

I interview prospective clients and only take on the families that I think I can work in partnership with, and I think will ‘fit in’ with my current commitments to other families – and of course with my own family commitments.

I decide what I will include as inclusive within my fee

I decide when I will take my holidays

I decide which policies and procedures I need (in addition to the statutory requirements) and I decide if I produce my own or adapt those that I can buy or download or given as part of membership to organisations.

I decide what documentation I need to record the children’s learning and development

decide what other documentation I need to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage

I decide on the terms and conditions of my contracts

I work directly with the parents of the children in my care

I decide what activities and experience to offer the children in my care

I make all the financial decisions in connection to my business

I decide on my own CPD requirements (above the statutory requirements)

I decide if I want to undertake a quality assurance scheme and with whom I do this

I decide who I take out insurance with, so I get the cover that I want

I decide if I want to accept / buy in support

There is more – but the bottom line is – this is MY business and so I make all the decisions

I consider an employed childminder to be someone who;

Has a contract setting out the terms and conditions of employment that is legally binding

Will get sick pay, maternity pay, holiday pay – and redundancy pay

Has parents needing childcare ‘matched’ to them and therefore does not need to advertise for clients

Does not need contracts with the parents of the children as these should be between parent and agency

Has a set wage for a set number of hours  at specified times, and agreed overtime rates

Has all the required documentation provided for them and training / support to fill these documents in

Will have supervision meetings with their manager

Could be sacked or disciplined as per the contract

Will follow the prescribed curriculum set by their employer (the agency) and agrees to do as they are told in terms of how the setting is run so that the employer (the agency) can guarantee the quality of their agency childminders

Has very little flexibility other that that agreed to within the terms and conditions of the contract

May be required to work from other location

Maybe required to share their knowledge with others via team meetings / training

Does not retain ‘ownership’ of document produced during their term of employment

Does not deal financial decisions / matters including any payments from parents or third parties

Has the tools of the trade (including equipment and resources) provided for them – and storage provided so that only need to store  the equipment needed for the children being cared for at that time, in the setting.

Does not fill in a self employment tax return but who does have payslips

There is more but the bottom line is if you are employed you abide by whatever terms and conditions set within that employment

Personally, I do not not want to be employed, but I can see that for some childminders the benefits of being employed would be beneficial and attractive.

However, without details of the childminding agency models that will be available from September 2014 – no one can assume that there will be an ’employed’ option.

Reading the very limited details that are available – it appears that actually the government are not thinking of agreeing to a straight forward choice between agency childminders remaining self employed or in becoming employed. In fact it appears (from the information provided so far) that the Government do not fully understand a) what a childminder does in terms of running their own business as a self employed person or b) how difficult it would be to employ childminders, given the complexity and diversity of childminder settings.

However many of the things suggested as being beneficial to join an agency for do suggest a employed basis not a self employed basis

This is taken from the DfE site under the heading ‘Advantages for Childminders’ Link to page mentioned on DfE site

The comments in blue under each statement are mine

Agencies will help to match childminders and parents, freeing childminders from having to spend time and resources trying to fill their places.

This appears to be taking decisions away from individual childminders – and so fits more with an employed basis

Agencies will remove some of the burdens of registration for childminders. They will be able to handle fees from parents and will have a role in managing government funding on behalf of childminders, such as tax credits and the free childcare entitlement – freeing up childminders to concentrate on the children they care for.

This is a clear indication that agencies could / will handle the financial arrangements and therefore fits more with an employed basis

For new or prospective childminders, those working in rural areas where there may not be much support, or for more experienced childminders who want to work more collaboratively; agencies will offer a support network and a more secure way of working.

A lot will depend on if these services are voluntary or compulsory – if compulsory then would / could form part of a contract – and so fit more closely to an employed basis. If voluntary and childminders have a choice about if they access this support or not, then it would / could fit in with a self employed basis.

Agencies will offer a single place to access training, business advice and support from other childminders. Childminders will be able to call on agencies for support and advice when needed. They will be able to build relationships with other childminders, and be supported in their ongoing professional development, including through training packages and peer support – which will help ensure they are offering high quality care.

This would / could fit in well with a self employed basis – provided any training / support is optional and accessible as and when needed. If there is not a choice and if forms part of the terms and conditions of being an agency childminder, then it would / could fit more with an employed basis

Agencies will be able to offer financial savings to childminders in areas such as training and group activities. Agencies will also make it easier for resources, such as toys and equipment, to be shared across groups of childminders.

Again if optional then would / could be beneficial to self employed agency childminders If the activities such as training and group activities are compulsory (even if as in must attend so many per year) then everything changes as these would be terms and conditions – and so would / could fit more easily with an employed basis.

As you can see from the above – it is not clear and in my opinion there are still a lot of questions to be answered. These are my questions – as a starting point.

Will self employed agency childminders be able to buy into the services they want – as and when needed, and only pay for the services when they use them?

Will self employed agency childminders be able to opt out of services that they don’t want – for example the ‘matching service’ and if so will they be charged less than an agency childminder who does want this service?

Will agency childminders be able to use their own policies and procedures if they want to? And will this be possible if the agency childminders policies and procedures are not in line with the agency ones?

If there are going to be be many different models of childminding agencies – maybe some with employed agency childminders who get the whole agency package, some with self employed agency childminders that buy into services as and when they want / need to – how will the government and the regulatory body (Ofsted) be able to be assured that an agency childminder  does meet the required standards of an agency childminder?

If it will be possible for self employed agency childminders to buy into services as and when they want to – why can’t childminders who choose to be independently registered with Ofsted also buy into agency services as and when they want / need to?

Will a self employed agency childminder meet the requirements set by HMRC as a self employed person?

If an agency childminder is employed, will agency fees still be payable – surely the wage paid to the childminder would reflect the running costs of the agency – but still be at least the minimum wage?

As a self employed childminder – my average earning per hour (after expenses) are often less than the minimum wage due to the number of hours spent doing paperwork, cleaning, shopping for resources / equipment / consumables. Will employed agency childminders get paid for these non contact hours? If so how will the agency monitor these non contact hours?

How will an agency ensure that all its childminders – self employed and employed meet the agencies requirements for food (as in quantity / quality ) for resources (again quality and also appropriateness in terms of type, educational benefit) and if a agency childminder is self employed will they still be able to decide on such things themselves?

Will the agency set minimum requirements for any of services provided by agency childminders (employed or self employed)? If not how will they be able to assure the quality of the agency childminders?

What will happen if a self employed agency childminder decides to leave the agency but the agency is managing some or all of parents payments? How will things be finalised so that both parent and childminder are not out of pocket?

What will happen if a self employed childminder wants to leave the agency but wants to become a independent Ofsted registered childminder instead – will the agency pass on the paperwork to do with their assessment / monitoring to Ofsted?

If a self employed childminder has paid for training from a agency – will that training be recognised and valid in other agencies or to Ofsted?

If a self employed agency childminder has paid for agencies services such as policies / procedures / recording documentation – and then leaves the agency, can they continue to use those documents once they have left the agency? In other words will they be paying to just use the documents while they stay in the agency or are they paying to own those documents?

I am  assuming that if an employed agency childminder, all documents remain the property of the agency but what about the accident / incident documentation and other documents that need to retain? Will the agency retain these for the required period of time? And if so what will happen in the event of an allegation being made several years times? What would happen if the agency had closed during that time?

What will happen to documents filled in about a child by a self employed agency childminder, who leaves the agency, but the parent of the child decides to remove their child from that childminder and place them with another agency childminder? Also what will happen if the parent wants to stay with that childminder after they have left the agency?

In conclusion there is so much that remains unknown, just on the issue of self employed or employed, that it is rather worrying and shocking that childminding agencies are due to be rolled out in September 2014 – just 8 months away.

I will end with the usual request to the Government to provide more information and indeed to say if I am uninformed or jumping to conclusions

Posted January 26, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “I have been wondering …….. These childminding agencies …….. Would I be employed or self employed?

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  1. I also wonder if a CM is employed, will they be reimbursed for the use of their own home/car? Will they have to follow a cleaning rota and be paid for time spent cleaning? Or will the agency send cleaners – as they would in a nursery? There are a lot of employees working from home or as travelling lone workers, so presumably it would be possible to employ childminders too – is any of the current trials actually trialling this option?

    • Good points – and both things that would add to the cost of childminding – as cleaning other than the stuff you do through out the day) is normally done in own time. And the car could get complicated as at the moment the cost of business use of the car is tax deductible but it won’t be if reimbursed by agency

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