The cost of going back to work….

George Osbourne’s recent comments over the possibility of denying the same offer made to dual income families of a tax rebate of up to £1200 (to go toward child care) for families earning up to £300k , have angered many, including me. According to Mr Osborne stay at home mothers (he didn’t say ‘parents’; he’s having another pop at mothers) have made a ‘lifestyle choice‘ and are therefore undeserving of any help. Instead what we get is derision and vitriol, from people who haven’t the first idea of what we do.  I entirely fail to see how choosing to go back to work is any less of a ‘lifestyle-choice’ than choosing to stay at home to raise our own children, but that’s another post.  Okay, staying at home does not earn a wage, and therefore it is not taxable, but there are other ways to contribute to society than being a tax-paying wage earner.

On the whole, single income families actually pay more tax as a percentage of their household incomes than dual earner families.  We also claim less in tax credits depending on that income.  The threshold for help is at around £16-26k per year, in which you qualify for a plethora of tax credits and benefits such as housing benefit, council tax benefit, and Working Tax Credit (which has become a tax-funded subsidy for employers who will not pay a working wage). I do not begrudge the needy at all. They have the right to a family life every bit as much as the rest of us.  The ‘don’t have kids you can’t afford’ brigade ought to realise that this attitude makes having children a luxury reserved for the very wealthy.  The anti-parents-getting-any-help-at-all crowd fail to realise that it is the children of THIS generation who will be funding their pensions and providing the ‘antis’ with care in their dotage, through both time, skills and taxes. Is it so dreadful an idea, that we consider that parents do an important role in raising the next generation, which is deserving of recognition, rather than public derision and scorn?

“when it comes to tax credits and ‘benefits’, my husband’s income is counted as mine — as a “family income”. Yet when it comes to tax time, our family income can only have one personal allowance applied to it (so rather than “ours” it is now only “his”).

I do not want a subsidy, but nor do I want to subsidise other peoples lifestyle choices.

The government should provide a level playing field and allow families to make their own choices without financial coercion.”

Défendenosinproelio • 20 days ago

It is not easy to be financially and emotionally dependant (especially if you are temperamentally unsuited to a dependant role) on one person, nor is it easy for the person who has a family reliant upon a single income (which in real terms has decreased significantly under the coalition). If you are that primary carer,  life is not about sitting in front of the telly with your feet up (as many who have no clue as to what full-time parenting would appear to assume), it involves engaging with those children, all day, everyday, with no ‘break-time’, no time off, and no ‘sick pay’.  If you are lucky enough to have extended family nearby, you might get a break, but generally, the care is up to you.  This is not, by any means, the easy ‘lifestyle choice’ that Osborne and the Tories would like people to think it is, in order to give a hint of credence to their socially regressive and punitive policies. I wonder if they actually have the stamina and testicular fortitude to live it themselves, rather than condemn a ‘life-style choice’ they clearly don’t have a clue about.

Personal situation (I really am getting to the point now)

Last week I was approached on LinkedIn for an admin role in the city paying between £10 and £15 per hour (£400-£600 per wk./£20800-31200 per annum). ‘Not bad‘ I thought and ‘the role looks like it is right up my street‘. However, upon looking into childcare (for 3 children under 5) and transport costs into London, working a full time job in London, which is the only place I stand to earn even close to what I would need to cover my costs.

Childcare (average UK prices)

It costs, on average, £177 per week per child for a full time nursery place. (£9204 per year). I would most likely need to consider this as the best option for our youngest who is only 8 months old. Our 2 year old will be doing 1 playschool session per week from September. As it is, £7.50 per 3hr session until he is funded at 3 will still be £390 for that year, assuming that I do not increase his sessions in that time.  I would also need to employ a childminder for him It would cost £3.84 per hour for at leas 50 hours per week coming to £194 per week. Our eldest, who will be starting full time education next week (I can’t believe where the time has gone!) would still need 30 hours per week for before and after school until I, or their father, returned home. That 30 hours would add another £115.2 to the price.  In total I would need to be earning, to be safe, £500 per week (after tax) just to cover childcare: £26k per year.

Child (by age)  Week Weeks  Hourly rate Hours per week
3  £  177.00  x 52  =  £          9,204.00
1  £  115.20  x 52  =  £          5,990.40  £             3.84 30
2  £  192.00  x 52  =  £          9,984.00  £             3.84 50
 £  484.20  £             7.68 80
Total per year [approx.]  £       25,178.40
Transport (Zones 1-6)
Weekly  £     55.60  x 52  =  £          2,891.20
Monthly  £  213.60  x 12  =  £          2,563.20
 Before Tax  Minus childcare Minus transport Total per week after expenses
Maximum salary for Viewsy Vacancy  £       31,200.00  £    6,021.60  £  3,458.40 / 12 =  £  288.20 / 52 =  £                         5.54
Minimum salary for Viewsy Vacancy  £       20,800.00 -£4,378.40 -£6,941.60 / 12 = -£ 578.47 / 52 = -£                      11.12

Financial costs aside, there is the very real emotional cost that that I would incur through pursuit of my own career while my children are so young.  It would mean splitting my children up every day, so rather than building a relationship with each other and me who loves them to distraction, I would be working a full time job just to pay (at least two) other people to bring up my children who would not necessarily have that bond with them. It’s their job after all, so how could I expect them to love my children?

By going to work, I would not be sacrificing for my children because it would not be my sacrifice to them.  It would be their sacrifice to the state (in tax) and to me so I could pursue a career in their earliest years.  They would be going without me for very little return (don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad salary for an admin role and I was sorely tempted). The figures speak for themselves and I wonder if Osborne really has sat down and worked out the numbers. The emotional cost to me (I would miss my little monkies), and what it would cost our family in quality-time, far outstrips the financial burden we are under currently.  As it stands, we simply cannot afford for me to go back to work at the moment. Whether emotionally or financially, the cost is just too high and if that is the case for us, I am sure we are not alone.

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