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  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. 15 hours/week for disadvantaged 2-year-olds
  3. 3. Universal offer for 3 and 4-year-olds
  4. 4. Working parents

Working parents

Parents who are working can apply for:

  • 30 hours/week of free childcare for a 3 or 4-year-old child
  • 15 hours/week of free childcare for a 2-year-old (from April 2024)
  • 15 hours/week for children aged 9 months to 3 years (from September 2024)
  • Tax-free childcare for a child aged 11 or under or a disabled child aged 16 or under

The parent who makes the application must meet an immigration requirement. The parent (and their partner if they have one) must meet employment and income requirements.

Immigration requirement

The parent who makes the childcare application will need to meet a residence requirement based on their immigration status. 

The residence requirement will be met when a parent has:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • Settled or pre-settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • A pending EU Settlement Scheme application
  • Immigration permission that allows access to public funds, such as indefinite leave to remain or refugee leave

A parent who has leave to remain with a 'No Recourse to Public Funds' (NRPF) condition cannot apply for the funded childcare hours but can be included in an application that is made by a partner who does meet the residence requirement. 

Government funded childcare is not a 'public fund' for immigration purposes, so a partner with no recourse to public funds can be included in the application without this causing them to breach their immigration conditions. 

When a parent who meets the residence requirement has a partner, both will need to satisfy the requirements relating to employment and income. For example, if one parent is a British citizen and their partner has leave to remain with NRPF, the British parent can make the application and both will need to meet the employment/income requirements.

When a single parent has leave to remain with NRPF, or both parents in a household have leave to remain with NRPF, the family will not be able to access the funded hours for working parents or tax-free childcare, even if they meet the employment and income requirements. 

Employment and income requirements

The parent (and their partner) need to be working in order to qualify. The parent (and their partner) must also have a National Insurance number. 

Each parent must expect to earn the equivalent of the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week over a period of 3 months. The amounts vary according to the worker's age. 

A family may also qualify if a parent is in receipt of certain disability or carers benefits and their partner is working.

A family will not qualify for funded childcare or tax-free childcare when one parent has an expected ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year. 

More information and how to apply 

For further details of the qualifying requirements and how to apply, families can refer to the government information about getting free childcare and information about tax-free childcare.

Councils can refer to the statutory guidance on early education and childcare.

Future schemes for working parents

The government intends to extend funded childcare for working parents later in 2024 and 2025:

  • 15 hours/week for children aged 9 months to 3 years (from September 2024)
  • 30 hours/week for children under the age of 5 (from September 2025)

These schemes will be subject to the same eligibility criteria.