Sick days, public holidays and unplanned closure fee policies
Sick days, public holidays and unplanned closure fee policies
There’s no one-fee-fits-all approach in Australian child care.
Instead, your individual service has its own policies and procedures which will determine how much your family pays for a session.
The specific service you choose, government assistance you’re eligible for, and hours your child attends will all influence the fees you’re charged, but what happens if your child doesn’t actually go to child care on their usual day?
Unexpected sick days, planned public holidays and sudden closures can all affect your child’s attendance.
Here’s what they might mean for your family budget.
Who decides what child care fees are payable?
The government confirms that, ‘Fee charging practices are commercial decisions made by child care services,’ and this means your service doesn’t have to stop charging fees when your child is absent.
Your provider will have a clear fee policy, and as part of the enrolment process, you’ll be given details of the fees you agree to pay in exchange for care (with an understanding that these fees may vary from time to time).
Do you still have to pay when your child is sick or on holiday?
You can expect to pay for sick days that fall on a usual day of attendance, however, some Centre Directors may be able to offer a ‘make-up’ or ‘swap’ day at their discretion.
Most services charge for public holidays, even though the centre is closed. This means that if your child goes to care every Friday and Monday, you’ll have to pay for their day of care on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
If you have flexibility, you can get around this by booking care on days that are less likely to be public holidays (such as Wednesday and Thursday), or choose a service that doesn’t charge if your child’s scheduled day falls on a public holiday.
Some services offer a ‘holiday discount’ for a certain number of weeks per financial year, so it’s worth asking about this and ensuring that you apply for any discount in writing, well before your holiday begins.
What relief is available for absence days?
Some services choose to apply discounted fees when children are absent, and the good news is that all families are entitled to receive the Child Care Subsidy for up to 42 allowable absence days per child, per financial year.
These 42 absences can be taken for any reason without your family having to provide documentation, and they give you fee relief when you have to pay for child care that your child doesn’t actually use.
Absence days can be used to reduce your fees if your child is ill, on a family holiday, enjoying a public holiday or absent from care for another reason.
The main thing to know, is that you can only use absence days for the days your child would:
- Normally attend their child care service,
- Be charged a fee for the session, and
- Receive the Child Care Subsidy.
When your child is going to be absent from child care, you need to let your service know, so they can record the absence and the government can pay your Child Care Subsidy correctly.
If your child is booked for more than one session of child care on the same day (e.g. they’re booked for before and after school care), and is absent for one of the sessions, this counts as one absence day.
If your child hasn’t started at their service or their enrolment has ended, the government might pay the Child Care Subsidy for up to seven days in limited circumstances.
Additional absence days are also allowed in certain circumstances, such as when a child, parent or sibling is ill. Other reasons for additional absences are listed here, and if you need extra days, you should speak to your child care service and be ready to provide supporting documents.
The government says, ‘In some circumstances, you may get more allowable absences for a special purpose such as a declared emergency [and] we’ll let you know if you’re eligible for these.’
For example, if your child attends a Victorian child care service, you can access 45 extra allowable absence days for the 2020-2021 financial year to offset the impact of COVID-19 (meaning you can access up to 87 allowable absence days).
Can absences be used if your child care centre is forced to close?
If your service is closed for any reason other than a public holiday or a local emergency, your provider can’t report your child as absent.
This means that if your service is closed for renovations or for administrative reasons, and they tell you that care is unavailable that day, the Child Care Subsidy can’t be claimed. Your service will explain the practical implications of this closure (including how fees will work).
You will be able to use absence days if a local emergency is determined by the Department of Education in your state or territory.
This is an event that:
- Affects a widespread area,
- Has a severe impact on the lives of the people in that area, and
- Prevents children from attending a service or may make attending dangerous. This could be because there is major damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure.
Local emergencies include bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, and a disaster declaration can also be a local emergency (e.g. the declaration of a catastrophic fire danger rating).
Break-ins, vandalism and minor flooding or localised storm damage that affects just one child care service are not local emergencies.
If a local emergency is declared and your service has to shut, your service will follow its own fee policy and you may still be charged.
It is worth noting that, until 31 December 2021, all Australian services are able to waive the gap fees payable by parents if they are advised or directed to close by a local authority because of COVID-19.
You can keep up-to-date with pandemic-related closures here.
What can we take from all this?
Whether your child is absent because of a personal illness or a public event, it’s important that you understand your service’s fee policy from the outset, and ask for clarification if necessary.
Your service can charge fees for scheduled sessions that your child doesn’t use, and it’s important that you notify them of absences to limit the fees you pay when your child is away.
Ask about any discounts or flexibility your service might offer for days off, and make sure you get all the child care assistance you’re eligible for.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 04 August 2021
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