Fair pay at heart of childcare expansion

Scotland's early learning and childcare (ELC) expansion plans will be built on a foundation of fairness and equality, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed today.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Contributed
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Contributed

Currently, around 80% of practitioners and half of supervisors in the private and third sector providers that deliver the Scottish Government’s 600 hours of free ELC are not paid the Living Wage.

The First Minister has now announced that by the end of this parliament, 8,000 existing and all additional childcare staff will be paid at least the Living Wage as part of the expansion to 1,140 hours.

Evidence shows this level of income leads to increased productivity and reduced staff absence and turnover – particularly important for those working in the ELC sector where children benefit the most, by building strong relationships with practitioners through consistent contact time.

This significant investment also supports the government’s ambition to improve the attractiveness of a career in the ELC sector, which will be vital in recruiting the workers needed to deliver the ambitious expansion target of 1140 hours by 2020.

The First Minister said: “I am proud of the steps our government has already taken to extend payment of the Living Wage. We have led by example in the public sector. And we have led a movement of businesses who see the benefits, not just for their staff but for their own bottom line.

“I can confirm today that we intend to apply that approach to our expansion of childcare.

“In public sector nurseries, staff already receive the living wage. But there are currently around 1,000 private nurseries helping to deliver our free childcare policy and currently around 80% of the childcare staff who work in them don’t earn the living wage. That’s around 8000 people in total.

“There are few more important jobs than caring for our youngest children. So I can announce today that, by the end of this parliament, we will invest £50 million to ensure that childcare staff working in private nurseries delivering our childcare pledge are paid the living wage.”

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive, National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Private and third sector nurseries are vital partners to government in providing funded high-quality, flexible early learning and childcare.

“For too long, low funding rates for the childcare hours that local authorities buy from private and third sector partner nurseries have held down the pay of dedicated nursery workers.

“In our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on early learning and childcare expansion, NDNA recommended investment by the Scottish Government to address the long standing inequality in pay between public and private sector nursery workers.

“We welcome Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge of £50m to uplift the pay of private sector nursery staff. It is vital that this translates to a step change in funding to nurseries which are providing the government’s funded places so that it can raise pay to at least the real living wage.

“We look forward to hearing more details and discussing with the Scottish Government how this policy can be rolled out.”