Consumer Watch: Paying to stay at home

By Susan Edmunds

Parents say it is unfair that daycare centres bill them for days they're closed

Amber Longdill pays $60 a day for her daughter Isabella's care. Photo / Michael Craig
Amber Longdill pays $60 a day for her daughter Isabella's care. Photo / Michael Craig

Parents are fuming at early-childhood education centres that charge for public holidays, when the doors are shut and children are not able to attend.

Labour Monday was the first of six public holidays over the summer months.

Parents say it is unfair they have to pay for days centres are closed, especially if their children attend only a couple of days a week.

Commenters have taken to Facebook parenting groups and online forums to vent their frustration.

West Auckland mother Amber Longdill said it was very annoying to be told she had to pay for public holidays for her daughter, Isabella, 2.

She attends a Kindercare Early Learning Centre a few days a week, one of which is Monday. When Longdill couldn't take her on Labour Day, she said it was galling to still get a bill. She pays about $60 a day.

"I have questioned it but they've just said that's how they operate," Longdill said. "All the staff are lovely and I love the centre, except for that part.

I think it's unfair on the parents. We shouldn't have to pay."

She said it was hard on people who weren't working and were on tight budgets, as well as those who had to work on public holidays.

"Not only do they have to pay for a daycare their child can't attend, they have to pay someone else on top of that to have their child for the day."

Taupo mother Amy Nadine agreed. "I thought it was rude my daughter's daycare still charged us for Labour Day yet they were closed. I understand paying when she's absent, but charging us when she's booked but we can't take her because they close is just ridiculous."

Kindercare spokeswoman Barbs Tozer said parents queried this aspect from time to time. The Ministry of Education did not fund centres for statutory days and they still had to pay staff wages.

"Wages are our biggest cost."

Kindercare centres offered a set number of days a year for which a "holding fee" could be paid instead of the full amount, such as when children were sick.

She said parents could opt to make public holidays one of those days.

Longdill said she was offered the option of making public holidays a $3 day but she wanted to reserve the leave days for occasions when her child was sick.

Peter Reynolds, of the Early Childhood Council, said centres had to cover time off for staff and those that did not charge an explicit fee for the public holidays would probably build it into their fees overall.

"I do have a tendency to say to them that they should integrate it into the fees and tell parents that they don't charge for public holidays."

The Ministry of Education's deputy secretary for early years, parent and whanau, Rawiri Brell said it was up to each centre to set its own fees.

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