Back to school: How to solve child care issues and become an HR hero


As kids return to the classroom after summer break, the child care concerns of your employees completely disappear, right? Not exactly. It’s a common misconception for employers to assume that the child care challenges working families face go away when children are back in school.

There are many ways that HR and benefits professionals can support the parents and guardians in their workforce — with exploring, extending, and expanding employee child care benefits at the top of the list.

You can help solve working families’ child care woes during the stressful back to school season. Benefits decisions can have a direct impact on your employees’ lives outside of the workplace, which is huge! 

New parents struggling to find an affordable, workable child care solution for their kids? Friends or colleagues leaving the workforce entirely due to lack of childcare? Many need access to childcare benefits programs year-round — but especially during the back to school season. 

Go ahead, be someone’s HR hero.

Back to school childcare considerations for employers 
We know there are countless tasks, priorities and projects on your plate at any given time, and there are only so many hours in the day. Yet having a happy and successful workforce is predicated on employing happy and productive employees, including working parents.

For a lot of people, child care is still thought of as a concern for families with infants through children five years of age — but this is not actually the case. Child care is often needed for older kids, too, especially in the six-to-12-year-old age range.

What do parents do with older kids when the school day ends in the middle of their workday? The short answer? They have to figure it out. The pandemic proved to us that schools act as critical infrastructure (and often serve as structured child care, in a sense), but that’s not the whole story. It also revealed just how crucial finding quality, affordable child care is for both families and the economy to prosper.

Read more: How reverse mentoring is building the workforce of the future

After-school care programs are one answer many working families turn to, however, they are not always available at every school. And if they are offered, these in-demand programs tend to fill up fast and have limited staff. They’re a great option if you can afford the cost, actually land a spot, and can pick up your child around 5 p.m., yet they aren’t attainable for the majority of American families.

How much are your employees paying to put their children in after-school care? It varies widely, but the average national cost for after-care in public schools is $100 to $500+ per month, per child. This adds up! It also represents a serious financial burden for many working families, especially those with multiple children.

Trying to manage a school schedule that is perpetually misaligned with a typical workday schedule is a reality most parents and guardians face. Parents know all too well that school is dismissed fairly early, often in the 2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. range. 

This chronic misalignment causes parents to cobble together child care solutions for the hours before they’re able to pick up their kids. What happens when child care hours are not flexible? Families must find more expensive child care options that fit this schedule — or cut back on their work hours. Working parents bear the brunt of this stress and their work performance suffers, as they lose 5% of their workweek.

Traditional child care centers are tricky in terms of flexibility, and not likely to be the answer to after-school child care woes. Unlike nannies, babysitters, and many in-home daycares, traditional child care centers are typically located farther away from home or work, making them less convenient for busy working parents.

Another factor limiting the effectiveness of traditional on-site child care is that many more parents now work remotely. If you have a remote, hybrid or geographically distributed workforce, on-site child care is simply not going to be a practical option for them.

Employers not prioritizing childcare are at a disadvantage
By now, many employers know not offering employer-sponsored child care benefits actually impacts an organization’s bottom line in a serious way. But how?

Having children is a unique responsibility. There are always unpredictable events and emergency situations. When working parents and guardians don’t have access to child care benefits — especially options like backup care — they miss more work. 

Read more:Not just ‘breadwinners’: Why companies need to support working dads as caregivers

How surprised would you be if I told you that employees with kids are more likely to be less focused at work? Not exactly shocked, right? With constant child care responsibilities to think about, working parents have a lot on their minds. Understandably, they get distracted at times, hurting their productivity.

In situations where working families can’t find quality, affordable child care, some parents are forced to leave their jobs to care for their kids. This creates retention and hiring challenges for employers, not to mention all the institutional knowledge that is lost when an employee steps down.

What happens when you become that HR childcare hero?
If not offering child care benefits has significant drawbacks, what happens to employers who do prioritize this type of support for their employees?

When organizations offer comprehensive care benefits — including child care-as-a-benefit programs — prospective employees get excited about joining their workforce. Hiring suddenly becomes easier. 

Working parents with child care benefits will show up more consistently. When an employee misses time at work due to child care issues, their workload often falls on their colleagues or a manager. Employees supported by child care benefits produce better work and stay with their employers for a longer period of time, keeping the talent in-house and easing employee retention burdens on HR.

Working families who feel supported by their employers are more likely to thrive, with children’s learning and growth mirrored by their parents’ career trajectory. This all benefits the employee, their organization, and society at large, with more nurtured, productive citizens.

Read More: Resy and Pumpspotting are bringing breastfeeding support to restaurant workers

In order to competitively recruit and retain the best talent across your organization, you should clearly show that you are offering employee childcare benefits to your workforce. Highlight your care benefit offerings on your website and in every job post you list for open positions. This way, job candidates looking for employer-sponsored child care benefits will choose you over your competitors.

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