Drop off and pick up solutions for parents working non-standard hours

Published on Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Last updated on Wednesday, 11 November 2020

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Child care centres and after school care services recognise the needs of working parents, with many of them opening at 6:30am and closing at 6pm to accommodate the 40-hour week. However, for some families, it is still a race against the clock - or simply impossible - to drop off and collect their child within operating hours.

Fortunately, there is help is at hand, and there are several ways that parents can bridge the gap between long workdays and shorter care hours.

Here are six possible solutions:

1. Family Day Care

With the low child to carer ratios and cosy, home based environment, there are many reasons why family day care is an excellent option for parents. However, one of the most significant advantages is the more flexible approach to opening and closing times afforded by family day care providers.

Many family day care providers are happy to negotiate with parents around pick up and drop off times and some even offer overnight care, which is a real plus for shift workers and people who work irregular hours.

In addition, family day care is subject to all the same quality standards as long day care and attracts the same levels of financial support (subsidies) from government. Read more here.

2. Care provided by a family member, friend or neighbour

An energetic relative, close friend, fellow parent or trusted neighbour may also be a convenient option outside usual child care hours. Depending on the relationship, this care may be provided free-of-charge or paid for, and even though you may not interview them for the role, it's still important to explain your child's needs and routine.

Remember too that older carers (hello Granny) may not have the stamina of a young babysitter, so you might need to consider combining their efforts with another type of care. Our article on Successfully Using Grandparents for Child Care contains lots of helpful pointers.

3. Parent sharing

Parent sharing (or a 'care co-op') involves a network of families working out which days different parents can pick up and look after everyone's children. This kind of reciprocal child-minding is a great solution if some parents are part-timers or flexible workers. Plus, it's social, rewarding and free!

In terms of individual families, some spouses also share the child care load by working 'mirror shifts' or planning their hours around each other. For instance, Mum could drop the kids off before her shift and Dad could pick them up after his.

4. Nannies

nanny can be a great way to fill in the gaps around the operating hours of child care centres, family day care or schools, and there are different nannies to suit the needs of different families.

A before and/or after school care nanny works around school hours, while a part-time nanny can be employed to pick up your child and care for them until you get home around 6:30pm.

There is also the option of a full-time nanny, who works at least eight hours a day, five days a week, but not necessarily nine to five.

And nanny share is another helpful alternative, where one nanny works for two families. In practice, this can mean that they work part-time for each family or care for both sets of children at the same time, providing morning and/or afternoon care.

5. Babysitters

For parents working outside the nine to five, one option is to hire a babysitter and agree on a regular commitment and pay rate. Reliability is key, and you can book a babysitter with an agency or find one through word-of-mouth.

When it comes to before or after school care, there is also the option of using a responsible teenager. Just make sure their school hours fit with your child's pick up time, and give the sitter clear instructions about arrangements, expectations and house rules.

Our comprehensive babysitter overview provides lots of helpful information, and when it comes to hiring a babysitter and for an easy way to find care use our babysitter and agency search.

6. Au Pairs

Au pairs are becoming an increasingly popular option for families and as well as providing a cultural experience at home, these live-in helpers provide child care and light household duties.

An au pair can get your child ready in the morning, drive them to day care or school, pick them up, help with homework and get them ready for bed, which means they're a great option for parents who work longer hours.

Who can collect a child from care?

When it comes to pick ups, keep in mind that there are strict policies and regulations around the collection of children from education and care services. This means that as a parent, you will need to authorise in writing who can collect your child. Always make it clear to your child and carer what the drop off and pick up arrangements are.

How else can parents make drop offs and pick ups work?

A successful 'out of hours' child care arrangement will work best with careful planning and communication.

It pays to look at your working week alongside your child's schedule, factor in any extra curricular activities and then identify the days and times that you need care. Recognise too that the best-laid plans may have to change. Keep the lines of communication open and factor in some flexibility with your carer.

And remember – whether you work nine to five or five to nine, there is a way to make child care work for your family.

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