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

You must live in England to apply for free childcare. 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.

There are:

This guide is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Your child’s age and circumstances

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

  • 2 years old, you can get 15 hours free childcare
  • 3 to 4 years old, you can get 30 hours free childcare

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

If you foster your child, 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 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’re on adoption leave for a child aged 2 to 4 years old, you must return to work within 31 days of the date you first apply for free childcare for that child.

If you’re not currently working

You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Limited Capability for Work Benefit or 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:

  • £2,167 if you’re aged 23 or over
  • £2,117 if you’re aged 21 or 22
  • £1,557 if you’re aged 18 to 20
  • £1,098 if you’re under 18 or an apprentice

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 23 or over and do not have a regular income but earn £8,668 a year. This is the same as earning £2,167 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.

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, you must have a National Insurance number and 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

If you have a partner, they must have a National Insurance number too.

  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. 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