Charging Parents Fees When the Service is Closed

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Does your early childhood service require parents to pay fees for any days when it is closed?

The courts and most people generally view it as being illegal to charge for a service or good that is not provided.

However early childhood service providers may inform parents that fees are payable on days normally booked even when the service is closed.  They are able to achieve this by asking parents to agree to the fee charging practice when they enrol their child. 

family money worries
The cost of ECE can be high for parents

Parent Reaction to Paying Fees When Service is Closed

Most parents we have talked to have said they do not agree that a service should be able to charge for care when it’s not provided. They view services that do this as being greedy and not supportive of families. 

Who is most affected

The financial impact of having to pay for care when it is not provided, can be hardest on low-income families, self-employed parents, and casual workers.

Additionally, all parents who are required to pay for care that is not provided because the service is closed, effectively subsidise the families of children regularly booked in on other days of the week or month. 

The Ministry of Education’s position 

The Ministry of Education does not provide funding to services when closed on public holidays. 

On public holidays an ECE service is not permitted by the Ministry of Education to charge fees for the hours that would normally be 20 Hours ECE funding:

“If a child was enrolled for a public holiday and those hours were attested as 20 Hours ECE – no fees can be charged. The funding rates for 20 Hours ECE already take into account costs incurred by services on public holidays.” (Source Ministry of Education Q&A on 20 Hour funding)

The funding conditions for services to claim 30-Hour Funding from the Ministry of Education are as follows:

  • Funding can only be claimed if the service is open on the day the public holiday is observed.
  • If the service is open, funding may be claimed for children who attend the service on that day or who are enrolled to attend on that specific public holiday.
  • These are some examples:
    • Children enrolled on Mondays are not automatically enrolled on Labour Day unless Labour Day is specifically cited in their enrolment agreement.
    • Children enrolled on Fridays are not automatically enrolled on Good Friday unless Good Friday is specifically cited in their enrolment agreement
    • Children enrolled on Mondays are not automatically enrolled on your region’s anniversary day holiday unless the anniversary day holiday is specifically cited in their enrolment agreement. Please note some regional anniversary days occur on a Friday. If this is the case the same rule will apply.

Should a parent/family not indicate (or not be asked to indicate) on the enrolment form that the child will be attending on a specific public holiday – the family has a right to question being charged fees for this day/s and make a formal complaint.   

Suggestions

We suggest ECE services review their fees policy regarding statutory holiday charging and treatment of public holidays. 

It is best practice for services not to charge a fee on statutory holidays if closed.  Instead, any costs e.g., holiday pay for staff on days closed, should be built into the hourly/daily charge rate when the service is open.  (See comments below for other ideas/practices that ECE services have).  

Services that have a fixed weekly charge and do not want to bother with refunding payment for a day closed, usually offer days in lieu.  For families with children who do not attend full-time it can be a great option to have an additional day/s they can use when they want.  

People’s comments on charges when the service is closed

Not charging would be fine if it were not law that all staff be PAID on Statutory days – thereby making a public holiday an expense for Centre Owners. A very difficult situation but I am sure that working parents that have the stat holiday off, still get their pay for that day? I think they forget about that. (G)

Please give working families some consideration, I pretty much just worked a whole day to pay your centre employees stat.

Hi, if I am your lawn mower and mow your lawns every Monday, but Monday is Labour Day, would you be okay for me to invoice you even if I don’t mow them because Monday is when I usually do them? Public holiday charges should be built into the centres daily rate. It should be a simple procedure. There are generally a set amount of public holidays per year, it wouldn’t be a difficult calculation. (Becky)

I don’t agree about charge for days not open. The centres close at Christmas for 2-3 weeks – When you may get half price or a week free. We don’t get to pick the date -it’s what ever centre wants. Your kids at home and you still have to work and you end up paying again for another service to cover one not provided. The fees for centres just seem to keep going up and government hours not called 20 Hour Free any more. It is hard to find a centre that gives 20 hours daycare for free. Our child has just turned 3 and now centre claims 20 Hour ECE funding, cost for us went down by about $20 but the centre now gets about $90 more as its keeping most of the ECE funding difference and not passing it on to parents even though child has poorer teacher ratio. The ECE and charges for days not open are just ways to hide extra fees. We don’t get charged more if a teacher gets sick and extra staff needed. It’s just part of the overhead of running a business. So should not be charging for days not open. Would you book a holiday in a hotel where your where not allowed stay in the bed or allowed the breakfast paid for? (Darrell)

When it comes down to it ethically you should not charge for a service that’s not being provided! Employee stat payments should be considered from the profit margins not from the clients directly. And there are so many other restrictions – I pay for 11 hours a day and only use 6. My ECE subsidy is spread out over the 11 of course so the discount becomes negligible. 2 weeks holidays a year at half price so while my 4 year old stays home with his 5 year old sister during school holidays I pay approx. $1000 in fees for nothing. It is greed. There should be laws as to how a centre can operate. I’m sure there will always be different pricing structures based on quality of service etc but at least then parents can make financial decisions based on their actual daycare needs. (Michelle)

The Centre I work at offers make up days to cover a public holiday if we have the space available – lets face it we get no funding from the Ministry for a public holiday so if we can claim it somewhere else that week all to the good. As far as charging when a Centre isn’t even open I agree this is morally wrong – owners/managers know when public holiday’s/annual shut downs are and should factor it into budgets – like going to a McDonald’s and paying for a burger you’re not given – it’s not right. (Kim)

I think that coping with stat days are part of running a business. Daycares that provide food include that charge within the daily rate. They include staff wages and rent / mortgage / electricity / consumables and profit within the daily rate. Why on earth are operating costs on public holidays not included in this daily rate? I am a contractor and I cannot work public holidays AND my children cannot attend daycare because it is not open then I am out of pocket twice. It’s not fair to charge for a service not offered. If I cleaned your house every Friday but didn’t because it was a public holiday, would you be happy for me to invoice you for it anyway? No, you would be paying for a service not provided… I would much rather pay a highly daily rate and have Stat days incorporated than feel ripped off having to pay for something I am not getting. This system has to change. Regardless of the centres having wording regarding having to pay for public holidays, parents don’t feel like they can complain. Parents are left feeling like daycares are purely greedy and it’s not a good look for any business.

The daycare centre where my girl goes have chosen to close for two weeks at Xmas. This forces me to take annual leave just for my girls care. I understand about the stat holiday but what about the other regular working days in between and I have to pay full amount for no service. Another concern is why this is not mentioned on the agreement form. The manager only informed us verbally. I like to have some clarification if this is normal. (Anji)

Let us not stray from the fact that these educational facilities are a business for profit. Don’t get me wrong, they provide a much needed service, without them many of us would struggle to hold down full time jobs. The teachers/carers are employees in said business, Also not their fault that they are employed by a business that does not account in their profits for paid stat holidays to their employees. Is this the only business that does this? Maybe the government should provide a supplement benefit for those employees in this type of industry so that small business owners can cope since profit margins are so tight, and not pack up shop knowing this business is just not profitable enough, leaving us working families out of the much needed service. But alas, let us not stray from the true fact….. We are paying a business our hard earned money and receiving absolutely nothing in return. Wait, that fact isn’t entirely true, considering if I don’t pay for a service I don’t receive, my child cannot return to his day care, so at the very least, I have an actual placeholder. (Abagail) 

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