Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Childcare in the UK

What are my emergency childcare options?

Article 5 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

What are my emergency childcare options?

Our expert advice on emergency childcare options to help you be prepared for unexpected circumstances.

 Emergency and flexible options are important when thinking about childcare. You may need them in a variety of situations, such as:

  • emergency business meetings
  • needing to work overtime at the last minute
  • your nanny or childminder is ill
  • nursery closure
  • your child being unable to attend nursery because of illness.

In particular, if you choose to have a nanny or childminder as your main type of childcare, having a backup option is a good idea to cover unexpected circumstances.

Emergency nanny

One option is to take on an emergency temporary nanny. There are specific agencies set up to provide emergency childcare. These temporary nannies will provide the same service as a regular nanny, but they need much less notice. However, this can be a fairly expensive option.

Unless you personally know a nanny who is happy to be an emergency backup (for example a friend, a friend’s nanny or a friend of your own nanny you know well), going through an agency is the best option, as it will have contracts in place to protect both you as a client and the nanny as an employee.

See our information on childcare options to understand what a nanny does and the pros and cons of hiring one.

Family and friends

Using family and friends is the most common solution when you need emergency childcare. Grandparents in particular are key to emergency childcare. Research by Legal & General found that grandparents are so important for childcare that 69% of parents said they can work the hours they do only because grandparents can offer flexible childcare.

One in three parents rely on at least some grandparent care. This figure rises to 50% of those parents just coming out of maternity leave.

When using family and friends for emergency childcare, it's important to discuss the practicalities before you start, just as you would with somebody you're paying.