Steps Companies Can Take to Help With Child Care

Ask any working parent and they’ll tell you that one of their biggest financial stressors is that of finding, securing and paying for child care. According to the 2016 Care Index – which was pulled together by the New America Foundation and child care finder website Care.com – the national average for at-home care is $28,354 per year, while in-center care is $8,589 per year. Further, this varies significantly by region, with Washington DC, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas leading the way.

According to Lauren Smith Brody, author of The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby, for many new parents, the thought of sending their child to be cared for by another person is hard enough. The thought that said child care is going to take up a sizable chunk of your net salary after taxes is downright off putting!

However, some companies are taking steps to help parents make the best of their child care situation and being a working parent in general. Together, SHRM and Harvard Business Review offer the following strategies:

Making the most of what you’ve got: If finding better, more affordable care for your workers isn’t an option, your company can still help by:

  • Establishing set start and end times for meetings: Some organizations have implemented rules that state that companies can’t start meetings before 9:30 am or after 4:30 pm  to help reduce anxiety about the often stressful daycare pick-up and drop-off deadlines (as well as remove the threat of the dreaded overtime charges!)
  • Make schedules predictable: Avoid telling employees – without due notice – that they’ll be expected to come in early or stay late. Further, if your employee is in a travel-based role, try to schedule as far out as is possible so that parents can make detailed care plans.
  • Offer flexibility: Where applicable, allow employees to make their own schedules that will help them to work around any child care issues. Further, consider whether it is feasible to allow employees to work from home or another convenient location and allow them to stay connected via conference room technology.

Helping with child care: Even if you can’t offer on-site child care, there are still a number of things that you can do to improve the cost and convenience of healthcare.

  • Offer access to flexible savings accounts: Most companies offer the option for child care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), but few employees may know that this is an option at all! Be sure to educate employees during onboarding or after a “life event,” such as a new baby, about what benefits are available to them and how they can be accessed. If your company offers financial planning services, now may also be a good time to encourage new parents to sit down with a financial adviser and discuss budgets, child care expenses and planning for the future.
  • Provide a back-up care plan:  Sometimes the back-up plan to the back-up child care plan falls through. Some companies cut a deal with child care services – such as Care.com – to provide a discounted rate for a select number of emergency care coverage days.

Commenting on the importance of providing support for child care, SHRM and Care.com note that “smart, compassionate companies help their employees through this minefield, recognizing that it could be the benefit that matters most for employee retention. Policies and programs can help with the practicalities of care and to express an authentic desire to do well by your firm’s working parents.”