A number of significant projects are currently being undertaken in my Department with the aim of improving pay and conditions for staff in the early learning and care sector and to improve affordability of childcare for parents.
With regard to the issue of pay and conditions for the workforce, my Department is currently working with SIPTU and IBEC to consider proposals for the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee in the sector and the drawing up of an Employment Regulation Order. Dr Kevin Duffy, former Chair of the Labour Court, is the independent chair of the process and he will shortly submit a report to me on its outcome.
I recognise that there are many further steps to be taken, but I understand that there is broad agreement on the potential benefits of regulating wages in the sector and on the possible benefits of establishing a Joint Labour Committee as a way forward.
In addition to consideration of a Joint Labour Committee, an Expert Group is currently advising my Department on a Workforce Development Plan for the early learning and care sector which is intended to:
- raise the profile of careers in early learning and care and school-age childcare,
- establish a career framework and leadership development opportunities
- set out mechanisms by which representatives of employers and staff can work together to agree salary scales and employment conditions, with the backing of the Labour Court and
- work towards building a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.
The initial report of the Expert Group will be submitted to me in the coming months.
With regard to the cost of childcare, a review of the funding model for the early learning and care sector is underway with the aim of
- continue to reduce the out of pocket costs to parents.
- ensure a range of additional supports can be provided to children from disadvantaged group.
- compensate providers so that they can deliver early learning and childcare on a sustainable and high-quality basis.
- attract and retain a well-qualified workforce.
- create more supportive working conditions, where the workforce feel valued, where there is time for preparation, for reflection, for teamwork, for parental engagement.
The initial report of the funding model review will be completed in the coming months.