Apply for free childcare if you're working

If you live in England, use this service to apply for a code to get free childcare. You’ll need to set up a childcare account.

If you pay for childcare and want to use Tax-Free Childcare to get help with costs, you can also apply using this service.

If you are applying for free childcare and someone else already claims Tax-Free Childcare for that child, your application will be unsuccessful.

This service is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

When to apply

You can apply from when your child is:

  • 1 year and 36 weeks for 15 hours free childcare
  • 2 years and 36 weeks for 30 hours free childcare
Your child’s birthday  When they can get their hours from When to apply
1 September to 31 December Term starting on or after 1 January 15 October to 30 November
1 January to 31 March Term starting on or after 1 April 15 January to 28 February
1 April to 31 August Term starting on or after 1 September 15 June to 31 July

You must apply for a code by the end of the month before a new term starts. For example, if the term starts on 1 September you must apply by 31 August. Providers may ask for a code before this deadline.

Check with your childcare provider to find out the exact date your free childcare starts.

How you can use your free childcare

If your child is 2 years old, you may be able to get 15 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time).

From September 2024, you’ll be able to get 15 hours free childcare for your child from the age of 9 months if you’re working. You can apply from 12 May.

If your child is 3 to 4 years old, you may be able to get 30 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). 

You may be able to get free childcare for up to 52 weeks a year by choosing to take fewer hours over more weeks. Check with your childcare provider to find out if this is something they offer.

The childcare:

  • must be with an approved childcare provider
  • stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)

Extra costs

You may have to pay for extra costs such as: 

  • meals
  • nappies
  • additional hours
  • additional activities, such as trips.

Ask your provider what extra costs you will have to pay for.

What you need to apply

You’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

You’ll also need:

  • the UK birth certificate reference number (if you have one) of any children you’re applying for
  • the date you started or are due to start work (this can be approximate if more than 3 months ago)

If you’re a director

You’ll need to show you meet the minimum income requirements to be eligible. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will try to check this using your PAYE records.

If you do not submit regular PAYE information, you may have to provide evidence to show you are working and expect to meet the minimum income requirements for the next 3 months. This could be:

  • wage slips
  • bank statements
  • a statement from your accountant
  • copies of invoices

If you’re not paid regularly (for example, once a year) you may need to send other evidence to show you’ll meet the minimum income requirements, such as:

  • annual wage slips
  • year end payroll
  • a letter from your tax agent or adviser confirming your salary has been paid and taxed

You’ll need to do this the first time you apply, and every time you reconfirm your eligibility.

If you have a partner

You must include your partner in your application if you are:

  • married or in a civil partnership and live together
  • not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:

  • are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
  • are a prisoner

You and your partner cannot both have a code for the same child.

If you are separated

You and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.

If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will decide who gets a childcare code.

Apply for a code

It usually takes 20 minutes to apply. You may find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.

Once your application has been approved, you’ll get a code for free childcare to give to your childcare provider.

Start now

What you need to know

You have to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you’ll have to reconfirm your eligibility in your account in order to keep your code valid.

  1. Step 1 Check you're eligible

  2. Step 2 Check if you'll be better off

    Getting free childcare might affect how much you get in tax credits.

    1. Check if you’ll be better off
  3. Step 3 Apply for free childcare if you're working

    There's one application for free childcare if you're working and Tax-Free Childcare. As part of your application, you will find out if you can get both.

    1. You are currently viewing: Apply online

    If you're eligible you'll get a childcare account and a code for free childcare.

  4. Step 4 Give your code to your childcare provider

    Give the code in your childcare account to your provider along with:

    • your National Insurance number
    • your child's date of birth
  5. Step 5 Sign in to your account to reconfirm your details

    You must confirm your details are up to date every 3 months or your code will expire.

    1. Sign in to your childcare account to confirm your details