When I first started Kids Allowed back in 2003, my vision was to start a company that delivered affordable to all, high quality childcare.
I wanted to deliver the vision I had for the highest quality, purpose built facilities with highly engaged, skilled colleagues and a low staff turnover, beautiful resources and outdoor play facilities that were second to none. However, very quickly into the business planning process when we were “doing the numbers”, I realised that something had to give and what gave was the “affordable to all” part.
It was a circle I just couldn’t square.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the news about a “living wage” and in principal I totally agree, but the issue is that the more we pay our colleagues, the more the services costs the customer and there is a balance to be struck.
Since the coverage on the news, I decided to take a look at the breakdown of wages at Kids Allowed and was pleased with the outcome because I know we do more and pay more to our valued colleagues then others in the sector
- We have 11% of colleagues on minimum wage. Once they complete their qualification in our childcare training academy, which all of them are doing, they will move up our pay scales and away from minimum wage. No qualified colleague is on minimum wage.
- 41% of our colleagues are paid better than minimum wage but not on a “living wage”.
- 48% of our colleagues are paid better than “living wage” and most considerably more.
For childcare, that is pretty amazing but I look at it and want to do better. It will probably be another square I can’t circle! I don’t think there is anyone that would say people in childcare are paid enough for the job they do and the responsibility they take. However, if we asked our parents if they would pay higher fees to support this, the answer would rightly be “no”. Parents are already paying the equivalent of a mortgage (sometimes more) to send their children to nursery – an issue the government are rightly looking at.
Out of interest, I ran “the numbers” putting everyone on at least the new living wage rate…. and it broke! The business would go bankrupt overnight (or the fees would be so ridiculous that we wouldn’t be able to find enough customers that could afford to pay).
For my part as a responsible employer and advocate of women being financially self-sufficient (I mention this because 91% of the team are female), my focus is on being a great place to work (you spend so much of your waking time in work, you have to enjoy it). I want to ensure that there is a career path for those that are ambitious that takes colleagues at Kids Allowed on a journey to the sector busting wages we pay our Unit Managers, Teachers and Managers, and ensures that the aspiring Managers of the future (our Senior Nursery Nurses and above) are paid on or above the “living wage” rate.
The way we look after our colleagues shows through in a low team turnover (3.9% per month) and the longevity of many of the team that work for Kids Allowed. I am, however, acutely aware that our customers foot the bill for these decisions and that in tough economic times, I am already struggling to balance the high cost of our services with the wages our team deserve.
We will also be looking at the addition of a pension plan with the introduction of pension rights (in 2015 for a company our size) and like the “living wage”, I agree this is something that needs doing. However, to “square the circle”, I can’t help but feel that the government needs to do more to support working parents (tax breaks etc.) which will in turn help to better support our skilled colleagues at Kids Allowed and the childcare sector in general.