Parents make up 40% of the workforce, according to a survey from the family benefits platform Cleo, so it’s in every business’s best interest to keep working parents present, productive and engaged in their jobs. Yet many of today’s working parents struggle to overcome one hurdle to being present and productive at work: reliable, quality child care.
For that reason, companies are increasingly offering workplace benefits that help their employers address their child care needs.
5 ways companies can help with child care
If you want to appeal to working parents and workers who are thinking of starting a family, here are a few ways your business can help them deal with the cost of care.
Offer on-site day care options
On-site child care is a highly effective, though expensive, way to help employees alleviate the child care burden. It costs a lot to create a facility, staff and insure it, and get all the necessary permits and licenses, which is why on-site day care is usually only offered by large companies.
Fortunately, tax breaks can help offset those costs. The Credit for Employer-Provided Child Care gives businesses a tax credit worth up to:
- 25% of qualified child care expenditures (the cost of creating and operating a child care facility), and
- 10% of qualified child care resource and referral expenditures (helping employees find child care)
The credit is worth a maximum of $150,000.
Offer child care subsidies
If on-site child care isn’t in the budget, subsidizing workers’ child care costs might be. A recent study revealed that U.S. workers spend up to 29% of their income on child care. Subsidies can help cover some or all of those costs.
One of the most tax-advantaged ways to offer child care subsidies is employer-provided spending accounts. Companies that provide Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) can choose to contribute to employee accounts. Employees can also contribute to the account with pretax dollars, meaning the contributions aren’t subject to payroll taxes. However, combined employer and employee contributions can’t exceed $5,000 per year.
Support flexible working arrangements
Offering flexible work arrangements can go a long way toward helping working parents manage their child care responsibilities, and that flexibility can take many forms.
- Flex time. Staff have flexible start and finish times for their workday — perhaps with mandatory “core hours” in the middle of the day.
- Compressed workweeks. Rather than working five eight-hour days, employees may work four 10-hour days.
- Remote work. Employees can work from home or another location on an approved schedule, either on a full-time or hybrid basis.
- Job sharing. Two or more employees split one position and the necessary work hours between them.
- Expanded leave. Employees can request extended time away from work to deal with family needs and other issues without losing their rights as employees. Employers can grant leave on a paid or unpaid basis.
Choosing the flexible work arrangement(s) that will work for your business can be tricky, so consider surveying employees to discover which ones will most benefit your company and your employees.
Provide predictable schedules
Not all jobs come with standard “9-to-5” working hours. Schedules for workers in health care, retail and hospitality are increasingly designed by sophisticated scheduling software rather than people. These systems prioritize having the right number of workers to meet demand rather than the needs of workers themselves. And they take a toll on working parents.
According to a study published by the Society for the Study of Social Problems, parents who deal with on-call work and last-minute shift changes tend to:
- Require more care arrangements
- Rely on informal care arrangements from family and friends
- Use older siblings as care providers
- Leave young children alone without adult supervision
Providing predictable working hours costs businesses nothing but can make arranging child care much easier for working parents.
Plan for the unexpected
A child wakes up with a fever or sore throat. A day care center closes temporarily or permanently. A family’s regular nanny falls ill or quits. These situations can upend normally reliable child care arrangements. Rather than leaving parents scrambling for a replacement, employer-provided backup care can be an invaluable benefit.
To offer backup child care assistance, a company partners with local drop-in child care centers or babysitting networks to provide backup care options when normal arrangements fall through.
For example, a business can contract with Care.com’s Care@Work Backup Care program and allocate a certain amount of backup care days to employees. The program provides a network of screened and vetted licensed child care facilities and in-home caregivers when people need it. The employer can subsidize all or a portion of the cost of care.
Providing child care benefits is crucial for supporting working parents and reducing turnover, and they don’t have to cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some require a significant investment, others simply require more thoughtful scheduling and flexibility. This will give employees more sustainable work/life balance and help the business attract and retain motivated talent.