Early Childhood Ireland conducted a survey in July 2012, to ascertain the level and cost of absenteeism on the early childcare and education sector in Ireland, and the impact that the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton’s proposal to transfer responsibility for paying sick pay from her Department to employers would have on the sector.
Early Childhood Ireland has already warned the Government in November 2011 that this could put people in the childcare sector out of business, as managers are forced to pay double due to strict ratios of adults to children in the early childcare and education sector.
The purpose of this survey was to gather data on the level and cost of absenteeism to the early childcare and education sector, and to highlight the consequences that Joan Burton’s Sick Pay proposal would have on these services, if it were to be introduced.
The survey responses give an accurate picture to the Government of the real impact of such a move, and puts this into the context of a sector where the investment to date must be protected and expanded.
400 participants completed the Sick Pay survey, 95% of these respondents were Early Childhood Ireland members. Over 78% of those surveyed were from the private early childcare and education sector and 77% of these were part time / sessional childcare providers.
Both Early Childhood Ireland members (3,300) and non-members were invited to participate in an online survey. The results were collated and analysed by research staff within Early Childhood Ireland and the main findings are reported below.
Ninety seven per cent of childcare and education providers said that they could not afford to pay for sick leave. This is due to the fact replacement staff would need to be brought in for the sick employees, in order to keep ratio’s in line with the childcare regulations.
Over half of the survey respondents stated that they would have to close down their service if they were required to pay the first months sick pay for absentee staff
Thirty seven per cent of childcare services would have to make staff redundant as a consequence of the sick pay proposal being implemented.
Forty two per cent of childcare services would increase their fees to stay afloat.
Other survey respondents reiterated that staff wages would have to be cut if the sick pay proposal was introduced, as there is no option to increase fees within the ECCE scheme, and parents are also struggling to pay childcare costs in the current economic situation.
Twenty six per cent of the early childcare practitioners surveyed currently pay for certified sick leave and twenty per cent pay for uncertified sick leave, with the amount of days paid varying largely and dependant on employee’s individual contracts and length of service.
The average number of days given for certified sick leave was 5, and the average number of days paid for uncertified sick leave was 3.8.
The average number of certified sick days taken last year in each service was 31.5, with 14.4 being the average number of uncertified sick days taken.
The total cost of absenteeism for the early childcare and education survey participants in the last 12 months was €634 876.00 with €2028.36 being the average cost per service. This included the cost of replacing staff.
Many small early childcare and education services are already struggling financially in this difficult economic climate and some would have to forfeit their own wages if the sick pay proposal were to be introduced, or they would have to work on their own.
Some childcare and education providers stated that they would have to cut some of their services and thus reduce the quality of the service and not meet the needs of the children in them if the sick pay proposal was implemented.
Sixty four per cent of survey respondents hire between 1 and 5 full time staff, and eighty per cent of survey respondents hire between 1 and 5 part time staff.
For a more detailed breakdown of the results please see below:
Breakdown of Results
95% of survey respondents were Early Childhood Ireland members who completed the survey online, with the exception of one survey by post.
Type of Service
Of the total of 400 respondents 78% of these were private childcare and education providers, with the remaining 22% coming from community childcare and education settings.
70% of survey respondents operated part time sessional childcare settings, while 43.5% of respondents operated full time childcare settings. (The discrepancy in percentages may be due to some services operating both a full and part time childcare service.)
This data is reported in Table 1 below.
|Is your service:||Response Percent|
|Response Rate 100%|
Number of Staff Employed
|Type of staff employed?||Response Percent|
|Response Rate 100%|
80% of survey respondents with part time staff had between 1 and 5 staff members.
The majority of participants that had full time staff also had between 1 and 5 staff.
Only 4.2% of survey respondents had over 20 staff.
This breakdown of staff is represented in the table and graph below:
|1-5 staff||5-10 staff||10-20 staff||over 20 staff|
|Full time service||195||68||30||11|
|Part time service||257||48||14||2|
The second most common number of staff in both full and part time services was between five and ten employees. These results suggest that the bulk of survey respondents were from small businesses.
Sick Leave Policy for Staff
|Do you have a policy on sick leave for staff?||Response Percent|
|Response Rate 99%|
83% of the childcare and education providers surveyed had a sick leave policy for staff.
Certified and Uncertified Sick Leave
|Do you pay for certified sick leave?||Response Percent|
|Response Rate 99.5%|
Of the 26% of childcare and education practitioners who paid for certified sick leave the average number of days given was 5.
|Do you pay for uncertified sick leave?||Response Percent|
|Response Rate 98.5%|
Of the 20% of childcare and education practitioners who paid for uncertified sick leave the average amount of days they paid per staff member per year are 3.8.
|How many certified and uncertified sick days were taken by your staff in the last 12 months?(please give a number for both)||Response Percent|
|a) certified sick days||82.3%|
|b) uncertified sick days||88.5%|
|Response Rate 94%|
The average number of certified sick days taken last year per service was 31.45 days, however there was a large range of days taken; from 102 people reporting that no sick days were taken to one person reporting 780 sick days were taken in the last 12 months.
The average number of uncertified sick days taken last year was 14.35 days, with the range of days reported varying from 0 to 500.
Cost of Absenteeism
The answers below were given in response to the question; “What was the total cost of absenteeism to your service last year? (i.e. please include what it cost you to replace absent staff in the past year in €)“
|Total cost Combined||Average Cost per Service||Number of Participants that Responded|
|Response Rate 78%|
The total cost of absenteeism to the 313 participants that completed question 8 was €634,876.00
The average cost for the last 12 months per service: €2,028.36
n.b there were a number of responses that could not be included for statistical purposes (ie unsure)
Can Services Afford to Pay for Sick Leave
|Could you afford to pay for sick leave?
|Response Rate 99%|
Over 97% of childcare and education providers that filled in this survey said that they could not afford to pay for sick leave.
Resulting Consequences if Sick Pay Proposal is Implemented
|What will happen if you are required to pay the first month’s sick pay for absentee staff next year?||Response Percent|
|Lay off staff||37.1%|
|Reduce staff hours||31.6%|
|Reduce opening hours||10.4%|
|Response Rate 92%|
Over half of the survey respondents who answered this question stated that they would have to close down their service if they were required to pay the first months sick pay for absentee staff.
More than third of survey respondents would have to lay off staff and increase their fees to stay afloat if they had to pay for sick leave. Reducing staff hours and reducing the services they provide for children, were also rated as being a direct consequence of having to pay the first months sick pay for absentee staff.
Approximately 25% of the respondents commented in the ‘other responses’ section of question 10, with the majority of them expressing their concern at having to close down if the sick pay proposal was introduced.
‘If I have to pay on the double it will be the end of my small service. I may as well shut the doors! No other industry would work for what we get paid.’
Many of the respondents are already struggling financially to stay afloat and are currently operating at a loss:
‘I am operating my crèche at a loss at present, with funding training courses to increase quality I cannot and will not pay staff for absenteeism. If paying sick pay for staff becomes mandatory I will have no choice but to close my business.’
‘As it is we are running on our overdraft due to the lower capitation for ECCE and unpaid weeks. It is just a non-runner for us to have to pay sick leave.’
Some of the survey respondents reiterated that staff wages would have to be cut if the sick pay proposal was introduced, as there is no option to increase fees within the ECCE scheme, and parents are also struggling to pay childcare costs in the current economic crisis.
The parents’ fees are already stretched to cover public holidays and 4 weeks statuary holidays, so to include a month’s sick pay also would increase fees to an unaffordable rate
Many crèche owners would also have to lay off staff if the proposal were to go ahead, thus increasing the dole queue and adding to the governments financial burden :
‘This is just not feasible, along with all other monthly outgoings, it will in time just put an extra NINE more people on the dole queue.’
‘I would have no choice but to lay off staff & open for 4 days instead of 5, this would lead to more people on the dole full time & also part time. Surely it will cost the state more in the long run, we earn little enough as it is, they will undo the improvements however small to childcare provision in Ireland’
A number of owner / managers iterated that they would have to forfeit their own wages if the sick pay proposal were to be introduced or they would have to work on their own.
Other childcare and education providers stated that they would have to cut some of their services and thus reduce the quality of the service and not meet the needs of the children in them:
‘I have two classes with smaller ratios for children that are moving from the special needs room and children that have difficulties and need higher ratios. I would have to close these two rooms and my dedicated special needs room.’