Access to affordable, quality childcare has been a longstanding issue for working parents, making it difficult to be active members of the workforce. Covid-19 has only made this matter worse, impacting organizations of every size and sector. For many employers, this issue is affecting their bottom line. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has received hundreds of queries from businesses through the duration of the pandemic regarding strategies to support working parents. Understanding the options of an employer and navigating the landscape of childcare can be complex and overwhelming.
Who is Affected by this Issue, and who is Needed to Repair it?
C-suite leaders across all functions are vital in assuring that childcare solutions are successfully implemented. From CEO’s to CHRO’s, leaders of organizations all have roles to play in making changes and implementing strategies that help working parents succeed in the workforce.
Industries of all sectors, especially those that employ frontline and shift workers, will see immediate benefits from providing quality childcare support to their employees.
Many are Already Paying for the Lack of Childcare
Access to high-quality healthcare is an unforeseen and overlooked cost to employers that causes high turnover rates and absenteeism, which reduces productivity and impacts the recruitment of skilled staff. Employers that operate shift work during non-traditional hours are impacted even more by childcare challenges facing parents. By listening to working parents, observing trends in employment, and considering what solutions might work best for their organization, employers can maximize the full potential of their organization and employees.
Beyond the Bottom Line
Quality childcare decreases absenteeism, improves productivity, safety of operations and quality (especially in manufacturing), and increases employee commitment and loyalty.
Quality childcare is critical in ensuring healthy local economic growth and a skilled and stable workforce.
Recruitment and Retention
Quality childcare investments demonstrate workforce value to prospective employees, providing competitive differentiation, reducing turnover costs and increasing diversity of recruitment
Organizations that make investments in quality childcare show a commitment to their workers, their local economies, and their customers.
Investments in quality childcare demonstrate leadership within the organization’s sector, reflect organizational values and culture, and increase brand awareness with employees, customers, suppliers, and competitors.
What are the Options?
Working Parent Support:
This option would involve leveraging existing organizational programs to support working parents. Existing organizational programs, like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and Enterprise Resource Groups (ERGs), can be used to disseminate resources, information, and create formal networks of working parents to support each other and provide the organization with input and feedback. This is a low-to-no cost first step.
Flexible scheduling adjusts hours and days to accommodate the childcare needs of working parents. Depending on the specific needs, finding care outside of traditional working hours can be extremely difficult. Allowing for flexibility gives parents more control and the ability to find care that fits their schedules. There are multiple methods that can be used to execute this option, and it is low cost and requires minimal resources. This is also a sustainable option with long-term impacts and viability, with an immediate impact to culture.
Last minute changes to childcare arrangements are unforeseen and directly impact parents’ ability to show up and engage productively at work. These breakdowns are often overlooked by employers, but have a relatively simple fix. Offering backup care is a quick solution which decreases absenteeism in the short term. This option has a direct impact on short-term ability to show up to work.
Childcare affordability is often a high barrier for families. Through vouchers or subsidies, employers can help offset the cost of care and incentivize quality options. Vouchers can be given directly to employer-approved childcare providers or directly to working parents, providing them control over where to send their child. Subsidies enable employers to reserve capacity (slots) for their employees in nearby childcare programs and incentivize quality options. Employers can determine if they will help offset the cost of care. The cost of this option is proportional to need, which alleviates the expense to the employer.
This option addresses the access, affordability, and quality needs for working parents looking for care. Employers can operate the onsite care themselves or partner with an external childcare provider to manage the operation. This gives the employer direct control over access, affordability, and quality of available childcare for their employees. It does, however, require significant investments of time and money from the organization.
Public advocacy could address the need for access, affordability, and quality childcare. Usually, this advocacy is informed by or in partnership with childcare organizations. This option benefits both the organization and the community it resides in. It also positively impacts the organization’s brand and establishes industry leadership and influence. It can be politically complex depending on the environment.
Expand Community Capacity:
Shared services are collaborations with providers to pool administrative tasks such as HR, accounting, purchasing, etc. to help childcare providers focus on delivering quality childcare. Employer involvement in these alliances include, but are not limited to, “in-kind” donations of staff time, products, and financial support. There are numerous ways to participate and contribute to these collaborations, giving employers flexibility in their involvement. By improving the supply of quality care in the community, employers are ultimately benefitted.
Where to Begin
The first step is understanding the needs of working parents. They will be the most valuable partners in finding solutions that directly benefit them and the organization at the same time.
The next step is finding partners and learning the landscape. Existing resources and community partners can provide expertise and information as a guide.
Finally, go for some quick wins and then build on them. Take small steps and get quick wins to generate momentum and enthusiasm for meeting this challenge.