Childcare Options For Working Parents

Most mothers who work outside of the home will agree that their 9 months of maternity leave went by in the blink of an eye. Before you face a similar time crunch, begin to think about your childcare options and what you think will be best for you AND your baby.


Day nurseries will usually care for children from 3 months old up until the start of primary school in an established facility.

  • Nurseries may be run by the council, your local community, your employer or as a for-profit enterprise.
  • Nursery hours are almost always business hours, therefore opening from around 8 a.m. and closing around 7 p.m. throughout the year.
  • Nurseries generally provide care as well as education for children, so activities are built into the day.
  • Nurseries generally accept children for either full or part time hours.
  • Nurseries must be registered and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education, and most staff will have certification and training in childcare.


Childminders are professional carers who look after children in their own home.

  • Childminders must be registered and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education.
  • Childminders must be insured to care for children in their homes.
  • Childminders will have completed basic training and first aid courses.
  • Childminders may care for up to six children aged under eight years (including their own) at any one time.
  • Childminders may only care for three children aged under five years at any one time.
  • Childminders are self-employed and therefore will set their own hours and rates, but may be willing to work evenings and weekends.


Nannies are carers who will look after your children in your own home.

  • Nannies do not need to register with the government, nor must they complete any training or certification prior to commencing work.
  • Nannies will set their own terms regarding the number of children they will care for (i.e. if they will look after your children’s friends as well), their working hours and pay rates, and if they will perform any other household chores while on duty.
  • “Hidden” costs for hiring a nanny will include making sure that your nanny has a mobile phone, adding your nanny to your car insurance (if desired), extra pay for babysitting beyond contracted working hours, and meals eaten while working.
  • Remember that as your nanny’s employer, you will be responsible for paying his/her tax and social insurance contributions.

Au Pairs

Usually young women from foreign countries, au pairs usually come to the UK in order to learn English and make a little money on the side.

  • Au pairs live with the family for which they are working and must be provided with meals and their own room.
  • Au pairs must be provided with a weekly allowance, and may not work in the home for more than five hours per day.
  • Au pairs need no qualifications or certifications, but their schedules (with classes during the day) generally make them an attractive option for caring for school aged children.
  • As au pairs are often foreign, proceed wisely and make sure you feel comfortable with any potential carer’s command of English and abilities to communicate.
  • Be aware that you will probably need to outfit your au pair with a mobile phone and put him/her on your car insurance if you are expecting your children to be driven anywhere.


Babysitters are usually informal workers who will watch your children for a certain number of hours per day or week, for a set fee per hour.

  • Babysitters are usually members of your local community and are often teenagers.
  • Babysitters are rarely qualified or trained in caring for children.
  • Babysitters may be someone your children already know, and are familiar with your house or community.
  • Babysitters are usually willing to work nights or weekends.

Mother’s Helpers

Like babysitters, mother’s helpers are often informal workers willing to help you take care of your children.

  • Mother’s helpers are usually members of your local community and are often younger teenagers.
  • Mother’s helpers will help you care for or entertain your children, but generally are not left alone to care for children.
  • Mother’s helpers will generally work during weekdays and weekends, but are too young to work regularly during the evening.
  • Mother’s helpers may come in particularly handy during the summer, or for watching over your children in your own home while you host a social event.
See Also
Mum catching-up with work from home
A Job That Suits You and Your Family
Family shadowed on grass
Children of Working Parents Case Study