We often hear from readers telling us of their struggle to maintain a healthy work/family balance, so it was with great interest this morning to read about the rise of the 24/7 nursery. With more pressure than ever before for new mums to get back to work we’re seeing a rise in the demand for nurseries that operate longer hours, and the growing need for around the clock childcare to be readily available for parents.

According to new research by the Resolution Foundation think tank at least one partner in 75% of families on low-to-middle incomes and 91% of families on higher incomes ‘works outside the hours of 8am to 6pm’. It also reports that out of the entire EU, the UK has the highest proportion of employees regularly working night shifts. The frustrating rise of zero-hours contracts also brings to the fore a need for last minute out-of-hours childcare.

Guidelines state that there is no official limit for how long parents can leave children, and in some reported cases, children have been left for 48 hours or more. The costs are not an easy read. They range between £47 to £51 a day depending on the age of the child, with extra time charged at a premium, and night costs from around £60.

It’s difficult to see how most families would be able to afford to work in light of these childcare costs, and for those than can afford it, there’s talk of the unknown long-term impact of leaving children in childcare. Some nursery workers express their own worry – ‘if it was my child, I don’t think I’d have them in nursery for such long hours’, with child psychologist Penelope Leach stating ‘we’re asking small children to ‘work’ as it were – be away from home doing something they’ve got to do – for nearly twice as long as we would expect an adult to. Being in a group for all those hours is tricky. Most small children, like most people, need some time when you can just be you, and you’re not having to get on and be with other people’.

So what’s the solution? How are you coping?

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