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5 Family-Friendly Benefits to Consider When On-Site Child Care Isn't an Option

Elizabeth Trompeter on September 13, 2016 02:19 PM

On-site child care as an employee benefit has in the headlines this month following the release of Patagonia’s new book,“Family Business: 30 Years of Innovative Child Care.

A lot of the coverage, while giving props to Patagonia for its highly effective program, also delves into the challenges of implementing this type of program. For example, Bloomberg’s subhead noted, “While other family-friendly benefits are on the rise, on-site day care is on the verge of extinction.”  

Patagonia’s on-site child care is as rare as it is innovative. For the Ventura-based retailer, it seems to really work -- the company reports 25 percent lower employee turnover, a 100 percent return rate from maternity leave and higher engagement day to day. And yet only 3 percent of organizations offer unsubsidized day care services, down from 9 percent in 1996, according to the Society of Human Resources’ 2016 benefits survey.

Although Patagonia's in-house centers have been a success, the model won't be the right fit for every company. For one thing, it’s a big investment. The program reportedly costs the company $1 million per year, after parents’ dues and a $150,000 tax deduction. Then there are the operational challenges of actually building, staffing and running a day care center that meets employee needs and regulatory standards.

Another issue is scalability. When so much of today’s talent is not confined to the mothership, but distributed satellite and home offices, providing equitable benefits across the entire workforce is a challenge many companies simply can't meet with on-site child care.

Credit where it's due: Patagonia's investment in on-site child care has clearly paid off. They're making it work, and paying it forward. Publishing their book, and spreading the message of supporting working families being at the heart of responsible business, is a commendable service to working families and like-minded companies eve

Family-friendly benefits are fast becoming tablestakes for employers looking to win the war on talent. Patagonia, and our partners at KCE, have proven in-house child care can be an appealing and effective option. But it isn’t the only solution. Here are five alternative family-care benefit options to support today’s workforce.

  1. Child Care Resource and Referral
    Finding, managing and affording family care can be a source of stress for working parents, and that can lead to major distractions at work. Child care resource and referral benefits are one way employers can help moms and dads address this work-life challenge. Although still relatively rare, resource and referral benefits are five times more common than in-house day care, according to SHRM, and we expect they’ll become even more popular among employers as child care continues to be a part of the national conversation. Resource and referral can be an appealing alternative to on-site child care, often offering an advantage in terms of affordability and scalability across an organization. When they’re delivered through technology, like Care@Work’s desktop and mobile applications, these benefits can be utilized across a company’s entire workforce wherever they’re located.

    RELATED: What's the Secret to Attracting Top Talent? Taking Care of Their Kids

  2. Paid Parental Leave
    One of the single most difficult work-life challenges any parent will face is the first day a mom or dad returns to work after having a baby. It’s not just the prospect an overflowing inbox or the miles-long to-do lists, it’s the heart-wrenching experience of leaving your child in someone else’s care – be it a nanny or day care center. As paid parental leave policies have gained popularity in recent years, a number of companies have reported an appreciable improvement in female talent retention – ostensibly because new moms are able to make a smoother transition back to work thanks to paid maternity leave. When one or both parents have access to paid parental leave, the family has more time to find – and prepare for – child care for their baby. This, in turn, leads to better peace of mind, and employees who can be more productive and engaged upon their return to work.

  1. Flex-Work Schedules
    The typical 9-5 day does not work for everyone anymore. Between school and daycare drop-offs to extracurricular activities and unplanned events, the responsibilities of a working parent don’t always line up with the traditional workday. But differing hours does not equal differing productivity. Flextime is offered by 54 percent of organizations now and the percentage is continuing to rise. Flexibility and work-life balance are qualities working parents seriously value. According to a recent survey by the career resource site, moms and dads even rank those ahead of salary in terms of importance when evaluating job opportunities.

    RELATED: What do Working Moms and Dads Value More Than Money

  2. Back-up Care
    In’s annual Cost of Care survey, nearly 3 out of 4 respondents (74 percent) reported their job has been impacted because their child care plans fell through last-minute. These impacts to individual employees can quickly become impacts to a company’s bottom line if you allow care-related absenteeism, missed deadlines and lost productivity to pile up. This could and would happen less if employers offered benefits like back-up care. Employees who’ve used backup care are able to work an average of seven more days each year, according to our 2016 Care@Work client survey.

  3. Subsidized Child Care
    Child care is one of the biggest household budget items for families and two-thirds of parents say the cost of care has influenced career decisions. Our latest Cost of Care survey found 16 percent of respondents took an additional job to increase their income to pay for their childcare needs. Imagine how much more focused and engaged these employees could be if they didn’t have to worry about hustling to afford child care on top of everything else.

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