Council bans parents from giving Christmas gifts to daycare workers

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 Photo: Getty Images

Every Christmas has a thieving Grinch, and this year it seems it's Sydney's Inner West Council.

Last week the council sent around a memo informing parents that 'significant' Christmas gifts for daycare workers are no longer allowed.

The note explained that such gifts breach the employee code of conduct, a ruling that's consistent with other council departments' strict anti-corruption rules.

"Please be aware that gifts which are not of a token nature, cash or cash-like gifts (such as gift cards etc) will be politely declined by our staff," the memo said.

"We would like to avoid these situations, particularly so as not to upset any of our children."

As an alternative, the memo suggested gifting a simple thank you card, or a child-made creation or drawing.

As a parent of a child who attended daycare for four years, I'm in two minds about this.

I think the idea of a ban is ridiculous and gifts are very much subjective. Honestly, if a parent wants to gift a teacher something special, they should go ahead. Most mums and dads are grateful for all the daycare staff do, and want to thank them for their hard work over the year. Teachers only get paid a pittance to do a job I wouldn't have the patience to do for even one day.

I also can't fathom how this would be policed – and think the council should surely focus on more important issues.

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But on the flipside, I'm not adverse to a monetary limit or guideline being recommended for presents. I know I've previously felt obliged to spend more after seeing everyone else's gifts. There can definitely be some pressure there.

And there are many families that can't afford to spend a lot – especially after the already high cost of daycare itself.

Regardless, the resounding response to this ruling has been one of disgust.  

The former Leichhardt mayor, Darcy Byrne, last week said, "A Christmas crackdown in gifts for early childhood educators is the last thing the council should be focused on. Parents know how undervalued and underpaid these educators are and want to show their appreciation for what they do for our kids.

"Government has no business tying down this Christmas spirit with red tape."

Julie Foley, a qualified childcare educator, says that teachers don't expect presents, but admits that the thought is appreciated.

"Being acknowledged for the incredible work we do day in day out with so much love and patience is lovely," she says. 

This year, and in the past, Foley has received candles, body wash, bath bombs, movie vouchers, wine, chocolates, coffee mugs, and store bought and handmade biscuits and decorations to name a few.

However, she's most touched when she receives sentimental cards. 

"It's the little things that are mentioned that strike a chord," she says. "Some examples I received this year were 'for helping me eat new food', 'for supporting my child to build their social skills' and 'thank you helping with the toilet training'."

Foley says that not all families give gifts, but notes that it doesn't affect her relationship with them or how she feels about them. She also laughs at the idea of gifts as bribery.

Her advice? "I believe it's a personal decision to gift someone, but if you feel you want to but aren't sure, maybe ask the centre what their policy is," she suggests.

"If you don't want to give separate gifts, combining a present [with other parents] is a good alternative. That way, a set limit can help everyone feel that they have equally contributed."

Whether or not this ban will be enforced remains to be seen.

In the meantime, here's wishing a happy Christmas to daycare workers the country over.

As a personal message from me, your devotion and dedication is a gift in itself, and your patience is simply priceless.