Check you're eligible for free childcare if you're working

You may be able to get free childcare for your child aged 9 months to 4 years old if you live in England.

The amount of free childcare you can get depends on:

  • your child’s age and circumstances
  • whether you’re working (employed, self-employed, or a director)
  • your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)
  • your immigration status

If you’ve already registered, you can sign in to your childcare account.

If you claim certain benefits, you may be eligible for free education and childcare for 2-year-olds under a separate scheme.

There are:

This guide is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Your child’s age and circumstances

The number of hours of free childcare you can get depends on the age of your child. If your child is:

  • 9 months to 2 years old, you can get 15 hours per week of free childcare
  • 3 to 4 years old, you can get 30 hours per week of free childcare

You will not be eligible if your child does not usually live with you.

Foster carers

If you foster your child, you can claim free childcare if you’re working as long as:

  • you’re in paid work outside your fostering role 
  • your ‘adjusted net income’ is under £100,000

You cannot use the online application to get free childcare. Speak to your social worker and your local authority if you want to apply.

If you’re working

You can usually get free childcare for working parents if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:

  • in work
  • on sick leave or annual leave
  • on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave

​If you start work or are on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave

The date you start or return to work will affect when you can get free childcare. 

Date of starting or returning to work When you can get your hours from
1 May to 30 September Term starting on or after 1 September
1 October to 31 January Term starting on or after 1 January
1 February to 30 April Term starting on or after 1 April

If you’re not currently working

You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you are on carer’s leave or if you get any of the following: 

  • Incapacity Benefit 
  • Severe Disablement Allowance 
  • Carer’s Allowance 
  • Limited Capability for Work Benefit 
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.

You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

Your income

Over the next 3 months you and your partner (if you have one) must each expect to earn at least:

  • £2,380 before tax if you’re aged 21 or over (equivalent to £183 per week)
  • £1,788 before tax if you’re aged 18 to 20 (equivalent to £137 per week)
  • £1,331 before tax if you’re under 18 or an apprentice (equivalent to £102 per week)

This is the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.

You can use an average of how much you expect to earn over the current tax year if:

  • you work throughout the year but do not get paid regularly
  • you’re self-employed and do not expect to earn enough in the next 3 months


You’re eligible if you’re 21 or over and do not have a regular income but earn £9,518 a year. This is the same as earning £2,379 every 3 months on average.

If you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago

You can earn less and still be eligible for free childcare for working parents.

If you have more than one job

You can use your total earnings to work out if you meet the threshold. This includes:

  • earnings from any employment
  • earnings from any self-employment

If you’re both employed and self-employed, you can use just your self-employment income if this would make you eligible.


If you expect your average self-employed earnings over the tax year to be more than you’ll get over the next 3 months as an employee.

Income that does not count toward your minimum earnings

Certain types of income will not count towards the minimum amount you must earn to be eligible.

These include:

  • dividends
  • interest
  • income from investing in property
  • pension payments

If you or your partner have an expected adjusted net income over £100,000 in the current tax year, you will not be eligible.

Your immigration status

To be eligible for free childcare for working parents, you (and your partner if you have one) must have a National Insurance number. 

The person who applies must also have at least one of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • settled or pre-settled status, or you have applied and you’re waiting for a decision
  • permission to access public funds - your UK residence card will tell you if you cannot do this
  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'll find out if you can get both.

    1. 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