Childcare options if you have a job

Which childcare options are available if I'm working?

There are several options available to you if you currently have a job, or if you’re about to start work.

I’m receiving universal credit

If you’re claiming universal credit and start a job working at least one hour per week or more, you can receive a payment towards the cost of your childcare. This is called the ‘childcare element’ of universal credit.

How much you can claim

The amount you’ll receive depends on how much you earn from paid work, how much your childcare costs are each month, and how many children you have. If the amount of childcare you pay for changes, so does the payment you receive.

The maximum amount you can claim through universal credit each month is £646.35 per month for one child and £1108.04 per month for two or more children.

How to claim the childcare element

Speak to your work coach in person or by calling the number they gave you. You can also call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 – calls are received Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. (Please note that the Helpline is closed on Bank Holidays).

You can also contact your work coach through your universal credit online journal.

Combine universal credit and free childcare schemes

There are other childcare schemes that you can use at the same time as claiming childcare costs under universal credit. These schemes depend on the age of your child.

Find out further information on how you can combine universal credit together with other schemes.

Record your expenses to get payment

In order to get the payment, you need to record your childcare expenses in your online journal and provide proof of payment, which could include your invoices and receipts from your childcare provider. Your work coach should tell you how to do this, or you can submit a question in your online journal. You will usually receive your childcare payment in the month after you have paid for your childcare.

Keep up to date

It’s very important to keep your online journal up to date with your childcare expenses, and to send in any evidence you are asked to provide on time.

When you’ll be paid

The money is paid along with the rest of your universal payment each month, so you will get your childcare element payment in the month after you have paid and recorded your childcare expenses.

I receive tax credits

If you’re already receiving tax credits and your hours of work stay the same or increase, you will usually carry on getting tax credits towards your childcare costs while you’re employed. Read our detailed information to find out more about what you can claim and where to get further advice.

If your hours reduce to less than 16 per week, you may need to claim another type of benefit instead. See our detailed information about tax credits when your circumstances change.

I’ve been told my income is too high to claim tax credits or universal credit

If your income is too high to claim tax credits or universal credit, there are still childcare schemes available to you as long as your income is less than £100,000 per year:

  • 30 hours free term-time childcare is available to you if you work and earn less than £100,000 – find out more on Childcare Choices.
  • You can also claim tax-free childcare. The government tops up money you put aside for childcare up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year. Find out more and apply.

Note: please seek advice before applying for tax-free childcare if you receive universal credit or tax credits. This is because applying for tax-free childcare will automatically stop your existing tax credit or universal credit claim, and you will need to get a ‘better off’ calculation to see if this is really the best option for you.

Please call our helpline for more help with this issue.

Family and Childcare Trust

Use the Family and Childcare Trust's online search tool to find childcare providers in your area - from childminders to nurseries and playgroups. You can also tailor your search to consider additional needs and disabilities.

Visit their website

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