Provide Child Care Solutions
So the baby comes and daddy and mommy have taken their respective leaves. What do parents need now? Child care. In the Women on the Rise survey, not having access to quality child care or confidence in their child’s caregiver was a major reason women left the workforce. It was certainly true for me. But as we have seen, few companies provide onsite child care, leaving parents forced to cobble together suboptimal solutions. That strategy may have worked for my generation, but that’s not going to fly with the next one.
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Here is the issue: Millennials are becoming parents at the rate of 11,000 new babies every day, and they have been very clear that they place family above their careers. If we want to keep women in the workforce, one way to do it is to provide them with high-quality child care.
We know few companies offer onsite child care. In fact, of the top ten companies to work for on the rating website Fairygodboss, which tracks which companies are the most female friendly, only two are listed as offering child care: Google and Cisco Systems. Some companies are offering direct cash gifts to parents to help cover child care costs. Facebook gives new parents $4,000 to help defray expenses, but in California where they are headquartered, the annual average cost of child care runs over $12,000, so that one-time gift is not enough by a long shot.
Rather than writing a check, many companies turn to dependent care spending accounts for employees.307 These allow employees to put aside tax-free dollars to be used exclusively for child care services. The companies don’t give anything, so it really isn’t a “benefit” at all and the employee can only put aside up to $5,000 of tax-free money. Given that child care costs on average around $11,000 per year in this country, this “benefit” offers little real relief.
We know the government will not get traction on this issue anytime soon, so it is up to companies to take the lead. Providing onsite child care is one of the most powerful solutions. There are many reasons why onsite child care makes sense, not the least of which is the benefit to the bottom line. According to a recent study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, employee performance was higher and absenteeism was lower for those employees using onsite child care versus those employees using an off-site center.308 Interestingly, their performance was even higher than those employees who had no children.
It’s time for twenty-first century companies to add onsite child care to their list of employee benefits. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the fiscally smart thing to do.