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Paid childminder full fees as retainer during COVID lock down, now tells us she is closing business

(44 Posts)
Rubberneck71 Tue 18-Aug-20 12:40:51

Hi all,

Looking for advice from anyone that is in a similar situation. We have been paying our twins' childminder full fees in the months since lock down at the end of March as a retainer to keep her services for when we are able to send the twins back in September.

We removed the twins of our own volition a week or so before lock down started as due to health issues within our family we needed to be shielded from COVID. Our child minder told us we would need to keep paying her in full to ensure her business stayed afloat. As we were still getting paid in full (working form home) we were happy to do this, on the understanding this would mean she would take the twins back in September. We paid in full April, June & July. In May she claimed government furlough money so we didn't make any payment that month. She reopened in June but we weren't in a position to put the twins back in her care as we were still shielding so we continued to pay the retainer. Total payments by us during this period ~£2000.

She text us at the end of July asking when the twins were coming back, we said early September and this was agreed as the provisional date. On 5th August we received a phone call saying she was closing the business at the end of the month (i.e. less than 1 months notice) so would not be providing any childcare in future.

We understand this has been a difficult situation for everyone but we do feel as if payment has been taken in knowledge that she would not be providing future childcare when we needed it. Are we entitled to reimbursement of any (or all?) of the retainer as we paid this in good faith to ensure her services would be available to us in September.

OP’s posts: |
JosephineDeBeauharnais Tue 18-Aug-20 12:43:50

I would tell her that as far as you were concerned the retainer bound her as well as you and you want the money back. Obviously you wouldn’t have paid her through lockdown had you known that she wouldn’t be there in September.
However I would imagine that others will say you should pay until the day she closes...

JulesCobb Tue 18-Aug-20 12:47:59

I would tell her that as far as you were concerned the retainer bound her as well as you and you want the money back. Obviously you wouldn’t have paid her through lockdown had you known that she wouldn’t be there in September.

I agree. It was a Retainer and she is fulfilling her end.

If she claimed furlough too, i doubt it waS for one month, and id be reporting her.

MrsMcMuffins Tue 18-Aug-20 12:48:13

Of course she needs to pay you back in full. You should not even have to ask.

user1493413286 Tue 18-Aug-20 12:50:58

To be honest if she was open and able to take your DC in June then I think it was fair to pay as otherwise she could have filled their spaces. I don’t think you should have had to pay for April and I’d be expecting that back.

StarUtopia Tue 18-Aug-20 12:54:22

Christ. Absolutely she should give you the money back.

It's completely different if she was still open and taking your child - your choice effectively to pay her to 'keep' her in business. But she can't just take your £2000k (plus however much off other parents) and then decide she's not doing it any more!

Probably enjoyed her time off on full pay too much!

GeordieLass01 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:31:20

Our childminder didn’t take any payment whilst closed. We have since transitioned to nursery as that was our plan fr wen I go back to work after maternity and they also didn’t charge during that time. I find it incredibly odd that they would charge based on my experience. However, when they opened in June I think if she was asking for payment then to hold a place, that’s Standard practice. Having said that nursery have not hated anyone at all even when opened but asked they confirm who is intending to return by a certain date so they can enrol other children. I think they’ve been incredibly reasonable in the circumstances.

What do your terms and conditions say?

mumwon Tue 18-Aug-20 13:36:36

so she's taken a retainer
she's given you less than a month notice?
check contract
I think she is taking the micky (ex childminder!)

OverTheRainbow88 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:40:31

Gosh that’s terrible. She probably also was claiming gov support so she defo needs to return your money, how sneaky and immoral.

Sweetmotherofallthatisholyabov Tue 18-Aug-20 13:41:09

I think it's only really April you can contest because she was available and willing to provide a service in June and July that you didn't want. Was she closed in April?

Crapster Tue 18-Aug-20 13:43:33

She can't have claimed furlough if she's self employed which I assume she is as a childminder confused

But she's a cheeky cheekster for thinking she can keep a £2k retainer if she isn't reopening! Does she understand what a retainer even is ??

christinarossetti19 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:46:15

You need to check the terms of your contract.

It might not be as simple as she's taking the mickey, you yourself have circumstances in your family that limit what you do. You have no idea really what's going on in her life.

If she was open in June and July but you chose not to send your children, then I do think you should pay for this I'm afraid. She was providing a service that you didn't take up.

Also, April was months ago. She did continue to provide her services when she re-opened so a retainer was appropriate.

You don't say if you've paid for August, I assume you have? If your contract says that either party can give notice of 4 weeks to end the contract, then I'm not sure what you can do, other than use the childcare places that you've paid for. If it's longer than 4 weeks, and many are 6 - 8 weeks, then you do have a case around getting you cash back for these weeks due to her breaching her contract.

What a pain. Hope that you can find alternative childcare.

Todaythiscouldbe Tue 18-Aug-20 13:47:49

She couldn't claim furlough as she will be self employed so presumably she claimed the self employed grant. That grant was for people whose income was affected by covid, if you and the other parents continue to pay full fees then her income was unaffected. Personally I would question that and suggest she may like to repay the 'retainer' you paid her.

christinarossetti19 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:49:53

Crapster there was and is a furlough system in place for self-employed people. The first payment could be claimed in June which was 80% of an average of the last three years earnings as per tax return submitted, to cover April - June for businesses that had been adversely affected by CV19 (which hers obviously had).

christinarossetti19 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:54:37

Todaythiscouldbe the criteria for the self-employed income support scheme was 'business adversely affected due to covid'.

No mention of how serious the 'adversity' must be or whether it was financial adversity....

FoxtrotSkarloey Tue 18-Aug-20 13:55:07

Are you aware of this investigation into childcare providers charging when not providing the service? https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-cma-to-investigate-cancellation-policy-concerns

christinarossetti19 Tue 18-Aug-20 13:58:00

OP do you or your partner had an Employee Assistance Programme through your work?

If you call them, you should be able to speak to a legal person about this for free.

Todaythiscouldbe Tue 18-Aug-20 14:00:38

christinarossetti19

Todaythiscouldbe the criteria for the self-employed income support scheme was 'business adversely affected due to covid'.

No mention of how serious the 'adversity' must be or whether it was financial adversity....

If all of her families continued to pay in full she was unaffected. Which is what I said in my previous post. Believe me, I've done a lot of investigation into this.

kissmysass Tue 18-Aug-20 14:02:48

@todaythiscouldbe just because one parent has continued paying a retainer does not mean all of them did. I certainly wouldn't appreciate someone assuming my finances.

We don't know the childminders circumstances, it may be that she isn't closing out of choice but rather necessity.
By all means query the retainer, check contracts etc, but you cannot assume she was sitting pretty on full pay.
Especially considering she opened back up in June but the OP decided not to use her services.

Tanith Tue 18-Aug-20 14:36:04

The self employment grant was intended to keep self employed businesses running. It's my understanding that she may need to pay it back if she is closing.

How were you asked for payment? Were you invoiced as normal and told you must pay in full, or was it a voluntary contribution at your discretion?

BIRDSbirds Tue 18-Aug-20 14:54:30

I'm not really sure your Childminder has done anything wrong here? Shes been open June, July and August, so you have been paying for a place just choosing not to send your children. Its unfortunate for you that she has decided to close her business at short notice, but she was keeping a space that you could have used for your children during those months so is entitled to be paid for it.

BIRDSbirds Tue 18-Aug-20 14:55:59

Unless of course, you had a new contract with this described as a retainer with different terms, but it sounds to me like you were just paying for your place but not using it.

IncrediblySadToo Tue 18-Aug-20 15:17:16

How often were you using her? £2000 for twins, for that period seems very low.

I agree with the line of thinking that she was open from June, so you were paying for a place you were (understandably) choosing not to use,

During this time she's probably had several
Parents give notice as they're WFH or have been made redundant etc

She's obviously not got enough income & needs to close her business (given new clients might not be easy to get). She's entitled to close & she's entitled to give you notice (as per your contract) and you are obliged to pay her (as per your contract).

I think it's unfortunate, but I don't think she's done anything wrong (she's probably not happy at losing her business).

You had a place you could have used if you'd wanted to & that's what you were paying for.

I don't think you're entitled to any money back & I'm not sure why you think you are. If you had used the place you were paying for, this would have just been notice as per your contract.

She gave you a month for free,which she wasn't obliged to as the SEISS payment didn't mean the self employed couldn't work.

Good luck finding a new CM.

christinarossetti19 Tue 18-Aug-20 16:17:40

Todaysthiscouldbe the eligibility criteria for applying for the self-employed income support scheme were that your business was 'adversely affected due to covid'.

The criteria did say that you needed to be able to evidence this, but not how. As the SSEISS will be taxed, I guess it will become very obvious to the HRMC which businesses were or weren't adversely affected in due course. Also as pp says, SE people could work in addition to applying for the SEISS.

It's my guess that the Treasury will claim some grant money back from people whose tax returns come 20/21 don't evidence that their business was adversely affected by covid, but nothing about whether the grant will be payable back has been announced yet.

Also none of this is really relevant to the OP tbh. The childminder set out her terms which OP agreed to ie paying the full retainer. OP didn't use the service when it was open from June onwards (for completely understandable reasons).

Crapster Tue 18-Aug-20 16:26:08

@christinarossetti19 I'm well aware of the SEISS having applied for it myself. But it's not a furlough scheme. Furlough means you are not working and people on furlough were not allowed to work for their employer. The self employment grant was payable even if you were still working, so long as your income had been affected by Covid19. They are different things with different eligibility criteria to satisfy and it's important not to mix the two up!

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