Being charged fees and paying fees when you can’t use the service and it is not your choice not to use it, can seem crazy.
Situations when a Service is Forced to Close or Chooses to Close
Services can be forced to close by the Medical Officer of Health when there is a disease outbreak – for example, a measles outbreak and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Services mat be unable to house children, if the building is damaged or threatened by fire or flood. This is called an emergency closure.
The service or authorities may decide to shut the service, if there is a death or serious incident on site. This is called a health and safety closure and may also have a cultural basis or a religious basis for a period of mourning or cleansing.
Forced closure can occur when the Ministry of Education suspends the service’s licence until such time as it can satisfactorily demonstrate its compliance with minimum standards in the regulations.
Should parents be charged fees?
Ethically – parents should not be asked to continue paying fees. Legally a service can ask parents to pay fees during forced closures due to emergencies and events outside of their control. If it is just for a few days, parents are generally fine with this. But if it is for longer, the risk to the service is that parents may choose to withdraw their child’s enrolment.
Services should have insurance to cover loss of fees and any other income due to unforeseen closure.
The Ministry of Education can approve the continuation of funding of 20-Hours ECE and 30 Hours funding, so ECE services are not left out of pocket when there is an emergency or forced closure. The service just needs to let the Ministry know of the dates and reasons for closure. However, funding is not normally paid to services choosing to close for other reasons or if the licence is suspended.
Advice to parents
You can question the service if you are asked to pay fees when it is closed and not available to care for your child, but first check what you agreed to on the enrolment form you signed and the fees policy of the ECE service.