Questions have been raised on social media about how much is too much for a childcare centre to charge after a mother shared how she was charged $55 for being one minute late picking up her child from a centre.
The woman posted on a mother's Facebook group she was charged a late fee of $55 by her child's daycare for the first 1 to 30 minutes. The fee then rose to $85 if the parent was between 31 and 60 minutes late.
Other parents in the group were flabbergasted by the charge, labelling it outrageous and ridiculous.
While the rates vary between centres, it is not uncommon for daycares to charge between $10 and $15 for being 15 minutes late to cover staff costs or to act as a deterrent to parents who are continuously late.
Centres commonly charge parents $1 per minute after the first 10 or 15 minutes, while others have a flat fee of about $20 for half an hour.
Sue Kurtovich, a consultant on early childhood education (ECE) centre administration and management, said $55 for a minute seemed unusual and it was more common for centres to charge a set amount after a certain period of time.
She said there were no rules or regulations around what centres could charge and when, but often it was included in a centre's policy to target habitually late parents or to pay the staff for staying late.
"It's not the one-off case, this is the parent who pushes the boundaries every time and so they have that ability to charge. Not because they want extra money from the parent, but because they want the parent to start picking their child up on time."
"I don't think the centres I see using it are doing it because one poor parent got stuck on the motorway, it's not about that. It's about when a parent chooses to abuse it."
Best Start deputy chief executive Fiona Hughes said Best Start, which is the largest childcare operator in New Zealand with more than 250 centres, charged a late fee when it fell outside the hours the centres were licensed for.
It was usually a last resort and not a matter of routine, she said.
The fee, which varied between centres but was often between $25 and $30 per every 15 minutes after closing, covered paying for two teachers to stay overtime, including one who was a qualified teacher.
Hughes said the centres used their discretion and it was more often targeted at the minority of parents who were constantly late, rather than a one-off where a parent was stuck in traffic.
The centre also had to complete an incident report advising that a child was in the service outside of licence hours.
Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said it was up to the discretion of the centre and urged parents to familiarise themselves with their centre's fees policy.
"We are aware that centres do it. We are aware that centres receive Government subsidies that are quite time specific, so if parents are late then there are additional costs that will be incurred."
Reynolds said some of the cost incurred by the centre for staying open later were not just for the period and could cost the centre quite a lot more, including making sure a qualified teacher was on site.
"I know some centres take a discretionary view over this, they treat it on a case-by-case basis so if it seems like something reasonable and unavoidable, frequently they may waive it. Some centres are slightly more hard nosed shall we say and if they incur costs they will pass it on to parents."