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How will Aberdeenshire Council childcare cancellations impact the Energy Industry?

Aberdeenshire Council have announced their plans to end all out of school care. This decision will impact many energy industry workers with young families. To retain and attract the diverse workforce needed to deliver our Net Zero challenges, companies must be aware of the impact of this decision on their workforce and now more than ever actively take steps to support their employees with family friendly policies.

Last week Aberdeenshire Council announced significant changes to their childcare provisions, ending out of school clubs for all children living in the county.  These breakfast and after school clubs are paid for by parents to extend childcare in line with hours more compatible with the standard working day. In addition to these school club changes, a number of school nurseries, providing care and education for children between the age of 3 to 5 years, will now reduce their hours to be in line with the 9am-3pm school day.

For those parents impacted by this decision, it will be an extremely tough time as they consider what their future holds and how this decision will impact their careers. Ellon, Westhill, Banchory, and Portlethen as well as other towns across the shire are currently benefiting from childcare services that will be impacted by the council's decision. These are significant population bases with people who support the energy industry, a reduction in child care provision will impact our sector now and in the years to come.

So what can businesses in the energy sector do?

There are two key action areas:

⦁ Support your employees

⦁ Make your concerns as a business known 

This will be a high-stress time for parents affected by this change and they will need an understanding manager who recognises that pressure has increased for them. Employees could be considering whether they can continue in their job, how they can make ends meet, whether they need to move house, all major life decisions and huge stresses that will be impacting family life.  Managers must recognise that affected employees might not be performing at their best and adjust their behaviours and support to address that.

As an energy sector, we have some of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced ahead of us: our transition to a new energy mix, maintaining energy security for our country and reducing emissions are the way forward.  All research shows that a diverse team performs better; those with different genders, life experiences and ways of thinking. The out of school childcare and pre-school childcare reductions will disproportionately affect women and therefore impact our sector’s diversity.  

350 children will currently lose their place in out of school clubs, this doesn't account for the children that will start school in the summer and all the pupils in the following years. We cannot afford to lose even 50 women from the energy industry, never mind the numbers that may eventually be affected by this.

Now is the time to enhance your family-friendly policies and ensure the culture within your business is a supportive one for all parents.  Ensure hybrid working is available, provide flexibility in hours, and ensure that if people reduce their time in the office it is not seen as a lack of ambition.  Implementing these policies and ensuring the culture is in line with them will help you retain your talented people and ensure they can perform to their best, both at work and their family lives.

As a sector, we are learning to vocalise our importance to the future prosperity of this country and the positive change we can drive as we navigate a world affected by climate change.  To solve these challenges ahead of us, we need access to talented, diverse teams of people.  This latest change from Aberdeenshire Council means we are stepping away from that access.  This will impact not only our workforce as it currently stands, but our future workforce, our future industry capabilities.

Our collective voice should be raised in outlining our expectations for childcare access and other support services to allow our people to contribute in the way we need them to meet the challenge we have been set by our country. 

It is crucial to not underestimate the impact these childcare changes will be having on employees, companies and the future of the energy industry.  We all need to be pulling in the same direction to meet our collective aims. Failing to act now is absolutely a step in the wrong direction and risks the future and sustainability of our industry.

Note: a non-AXIS petition and facebook group has been set up by the affected communities:

  • Those living in Aberdeenshire can sign the petition here.

  • Anyone affected by the change can join this group.


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