There’s something that has been niggling at me now for the best part of 6 years. It’s taken me time to mention it, but I’ll explain why.
This thing – it’s having to pay nursery fees for bank holidays. Yes, that’s right – the nursery my son goes to, that my daughter went to for 4 years before him, charges me a full days fee, even when they are shut on a bank holiday.
Just to add that up, that’s 5 days a year (not counting Christmas) that I paid for child care and didn’t receive it. At the rate I’m paying now, that’s about £265 a year. Over 6 years, that’s £1590.
£1590 I have spent on childcare, but the nursery was shut. Ouch!
I have discussed this with the nursery, I even wrote them a complaint letter – I’ll tell you more about that in a bit. But their explanation for these charges was simple.
“We still have to pay the staff.”
Yes, I understand that. When I worked in the bank I got paid for bank holidays. I wanted my pay, I would have been cheesed off if I didn’t get it. The staff should be paid.
But the bank had to take bank holiday pay into account as part of it’s business overheads.
If you were to go into your local bakery to buy a 25p cake the day after a bank holiday, and they charged you 50p because they needed to make up for the profits they lost the day before, you wouldn’t pay. They would lose customers.
Your child’s primary school doesn’t charge you for a school dinner that was never cooked on a bank holiday, because the school cook still needs paying.
Every business in the UK knows that there will be 5 bank holidays in the year. Every business knows they have to pay their staff. They work out the staff wages and factor that into the fees. Nurseries should surely do the same.
Yes, I realise this means I am still paying for the bank holidays, the cost would just be built into the fee. A hidden cost, if you like. But it would be a fair cost, across the board. All parents paying a little bit.
Instead, parents who use the nursery on a Monday or a Friday are penalised. We pay more. To quote my daughter,
“It’s not fair.”
When I worked in that bank I handled cases where customers had fraud on their credit cards. I recovered money for customers who said “I paid for a service, and I did not receive it.”
In the UK we have several laws that protect consumers which include the Sales of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. As a short and sweet overview (I am not legally trained, this is my personal understanding and open to correction) goods or services sold to a consumer must be as described and fit for purpose. In relation to a service, that service should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time.
If someone pays for a service on their credit card but does not receive it, they can contact the card provider and the funds can be recovered (subject to the circumstances of course). So perhaps I should pay my nursery fees on my card and then let the card company fight it out with the nursery.
Well, it would be amusing for me, but I expect that this right to charge for bank holidays is hidden in the small print of my contract with the nursery, so it would not help.
Just because it’s in the small print, it doesn’t make it right. In fact, there is another handy piece of legislation called the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. I wonder if nurseries charging for these bank holidays and not providing the service is a breach of all this legislation – it’s something I will look into further.
So, what did I do about it?
As I said, it’s been niggling at me for six years. I did complain to my nursery once. Originally they had been offering us parents days in lieu. While I would rather have had the money, it was better than nothing. As my nursery explained to me, the day is there but a lot of parents forget to use it, so the nursery benefits anyway.
After a year of being with the nursery, they changed the rules. They dropped the day in lieu. So I complained to the head office (my nursery is a chain) and they dumped it back on to my nursery manager who reinstated those days in lieu for me. Only me. New parents, or ones who didn’t complain, got nothing.
Which leads me on to why it has taken 6 years for me to mention it. Because the nursery is a good one – brilliant in fact. Lots of facilities, friendly staff, plenty of room. Both my kids loved it. I have no complaints and only praise for the place.
So I did not want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to stick my head above the wall. I made the effort to complain and I got a little something back. I thought and still think it’s unfair on the other parents. But I didn’t want to lose my own days in lieu. And I definitely didn’t want to lose my place in the nursery. Be backed into a position where I had no choice but to leave.
Unfortunately, when it comes to child care, parents are held over a barrel. This policy of charging for bank holidays is not unique to my own nursery, it’s quite a common theme on parent boards across the country. So we seem to have little choice but to pay up, or end up in a nursery that is less perfect, less brilliant.
We can’t allow our children to suffer inferior nurseries, because of 5 days extra pay a year. So pay we do.
Why am I bringing this up now, finally? My son is about to leave the nursery and head off to school. So I am safe now in risking the wrath of the nursery manager and getting kicked out!
I was prompted in posting this finally after Second Time Mummy blogged about the same thing, and we got chatting. Chelsea Mumma is a childminder and has given a good look at the view from the other side. It’s good to hear both points of view.
But in my opinion it’s not fair, and I do want to do something for all those future parents who have to pay. What do you think?
Should we shut up and pay, us Monday and Friday nursery users? What about the parents who pay and still have to work themselves, so end up paying for another carer for the day? Paying twice! Ouch, Ouch.
Maybe it’s time to take some action for parents across the UK! So, who is with me?