Shift workers struggle to access ECEC at times which suit their needs

Shift workers struggle to access ECEC at times which suit their needs

by Freya Lucas

May 20, 2022

A lack of flexible early childhood education and care (ECEC) options in Canberra has left construction industry employee Morgan Sutton in a challenging position, unable to make onsite meetings by 6:30 am. 

 

Ms Sutton, a qualified electrician and project manager, shared her perspective with the ABC, noting that the only service which she has been able to access opens at 7:30 am. There is only one service she has been able to find which opens before 6:30 am, which is based near the Canberra hospital with the intention of supporting medical professionals, and has a very long waitlist. 

 

“It’s not just in the construction industry, we’re looking at any shift work — your medical professionals, your emergency services, … a lot of retail workers, hospitality workers — they don’t have access to the child care that they need,” she told the paper.

 

While she would like to see government childcare subsidies expanded to cover more hours in the day, which she believes would encourage services to be open for longer, providers say it’s not that simple.

 

Educator vacancy rates are at record highs, and the sector is in the midst of a workforce crisis. Responding to this point Lee Maiden, CEO from Canberra ECEC provider Communities at Work, which runs 12 childcare centres in Canberra, says the organisation simply doesn’t have the capacity to open longer than the current 10.5 hours per day.

 

“We can’t be open 24 hours a day, we don’t have the workforce,” she said. “If we did, and we had to pay educators those long hours or working late at night, the cost of child care would just skyrocket.”

 

Instead of centre based services Ms Maiden encouraged shift working families who need greater flexibility to consider family day care (FDC), which offers weekend and overnight care, and offers an affordable alternative where families are only paying for the hours of care that they need.

 

In addition to accessing FDC, Ms Maiden called on employers to be more considerate of the needs of young families, and offer flexibility around working arrangements. 

 

To access the original coverage of this story please see here

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