Holiday clubs and the law: your questions answered

Holiday clubs and afterschool clubs in the UK and the law
Read our guide to holiday club legislation to make sure your child has a safe and enjoyable experience.

Finding good holiday childcare can be a real headache.

Often, term-time childcare providers like after-school clubs and childminders are unavailable during the holidays, leaving you desperately searching for other options – and it can be difficult to know whether you’re choosing a reputable provider.

We asked Phoebe Callender, legal adviser at DAS Law, to answer your burning questions about holiday clubs and the law to help you make the right choice.

Do holiday clubs have to be inspected by Ofsted? If not, how can you be sure they’re safe?

Most childcare services have to be registered with Ofsted (or Estyn, the Welsh equivalent) and comply with their requirements. However, holiday clubs often fall under their exemptions, which means they do not have to be registered with Ofsted, follow their guidance, or have any inspections.

Holiday clubs may be exempt if they provide NO MORE than two activities relating to:

  • Sport
  • Performing arts
  • Arts and crafts
  • Religious, language or cultural studies
  • Homework support.

If children attend for under two hours a day, or the club is for children over eight years old, it would also be exempt from Ofsted registration. 

Without an Ofsted report, it can be hard to know whether a holiday club is safe and reputable. You may want to ask what policies are in place to ensure children’s safety, such as:

  • Safeguarding procedure
  • Health and safety procedures
  • Staff/child ratios
  • Public liability insurance.

What staff/child ratios do they have to abide by?

If the holiday club isn’t Ofsted registered, they are not legally obliged to stick to any set ratios.

They should, however, consider how many children they have, the children’s ages and what activities are being provided to ensure their staffing levels are appropriate.

The Out-of-School Alliance recommends one staff member per eight children up to the age of eight, and one per 10 children aged eight and over.

What background checks do staff have to go through to work at a holiday club?

All staff and frequent volunteers at a holiday club have to have enhanced DBS checks.

Are holiday clubs obliged to accept children with special educational needs, medical conditions or disabilities?

Children with disabilities should not be discriminated against and are protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Holiday clubs have to ensure that there is full inclusion and make the necessary reasonable adjustments to accommodate each child’s needs.

Should they offer reduced fees for siblings?

There is no legal obligation for a holiday club to provide reductions for siblings. It will be dependent on their own terms and conditions – but there’s no harm in asking!

What can you do if a holiday club is cancelled?

If the holiday club itself is cancelled, or if they withdraw your child’s place, they should generally give you a full refund as they are not supplying the service you paid for.

Be aware, though, that some clubs may have a clause within their terms which excludes refunds for cancellations for reasons beyond the club’s control. It’s always worth reading the small print.

Can you get a refund if your child refuses to go to the club?

If your child decides they simply don’t like their holiday club, you are unlikely to be automatically entitled to a refund, but do talk to the manager about whether they can offer any money back.

If you can show there has been negligence or a breach of contract, you may be eligible for a refund, so check the terms and conditions.

Can you get a refund if the holiday club doesn’t provide the advertised activities?

If a holiday club doesn’t live up to your or your child’s expectations, getting a refund may be difficult.

If, however, advertised elements are not provided or are totally different, you could argue misrepresentation or breach of contract and seek a refund or partial refund.

Misrepresentation occurs if you were told something factual or if something factual was advertised, and that induced you to enter into the contract with the holiday club, and it later turned out to be untrue. 

If the club then refuses the refund, you could look into pursuing legal action through the small claims court.

Can you get a refund or partial refund if your child is absent due to sickness?

Whether you can get a refund will generally depend on the terms and conditions of the contract that you signed when you booked your child’s place at the club.

Generally, cancellations by parents for any reason will not result in a refund, as the club organises staff, premises and activities based on the number of children who are booked in.

What should you do if your child is injured at holiday club?

Accidents happen, but if your child is injured, the holiday club could be liable if there has been negligence on their part – for example, if it resulted from a lack of supervision or a dangerous venue.

In serious cases, you might want to pursue a personal injury claim through legal proceedings.

If the club is regulated by Ofsted or Estyn, you could report the incident to them to investigate. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to get a refund.

What can you do if your child is being bullied at a holiday club and the staff haven’t helped?

If you’ve reported bullying and the staff are not being supportive of your concerns, the first step is to use the club’s formal grievance procedure and escalate your concerns to someone more senior.

For clubs that are registered with Ofsted or Estyn, you can complain to the relevant authority.

You may also be able to argue that the club is in breach of any contractual promise to ensure your child’s physical and mental wellbeing, and withdraw them from the club and potentially pursue a legal claim.

How can you make a complaint about a holiday club?

Most holiday club providers will have a complaints process, but if they don’t, any complaints should be addressed to the most senior person in the business.

If the club is registered with Ofsted, you can complain to them, but many are not Ofsted-registered. However, if your complaint concerns a contractual issue, you might be able to pursue a legal claim.

Are holiday club staff legally allowed to apply sunscreen to children?

There is no law preventing staff from applying sunscreen to children, but clubs often follow Ofsted safeguarding guidance and either require parents to apply sunscreen before they drop their children off, or the child to apply it themselves.