If you’re choosing to provide a child care benefits program for your employees, you’re already one step ahead of the competition. Your heart is in the right place. Your intentions are good. But how can you avoid pitfalls that come with selecting the best employee child care benefits plan for your organization?
Based on my team at WeeCare’s experience working with thousands of employers who have been in your shoes, here are eight common mistakes to avoid when finalizing your child care benefits for employees:
1. Choosing a conventional program with high costs
Traditionally, child care benefits often involved a significant financial commitment from employers opting to cover a portion or most of their employees’ child care costs. Now there are more cost-effective options, like a child care assistance program that helps your working families find high-quality, affordable child care that fits their needs and budget. There are also full and partial employer-sponsored child care programs, as well as emergency backup care to support families when their primary child care plans unexpectedly change.
2. Selecting a static child care network
Since child care networks offer a similar service but are not the same in terms of quality or coverage, it can be helpful to think of them like cell phone networks. Among the most important factors is making sure you have coverage near home or work. Choosing a child care network with limited capacity means it likely won’t cover all your employees who need childcare, especially if you have a geographically dispersed employee population.
3. Thinking your organization must cover the entire cost of every employee’s child care expenses
While covering your employees’ full child care costs is laudable and may be an option, it’s only one of many alternatives available when selecting child care benefits. You can subsidize a customizable amount, per month or year, to help your working families pay for child care with a stipend. Even if you can’t cover any of the costs but still want to help employees access child care, you can do so by utilizing a child care assistance program. This program offers your working parents a dedicated care manager to assist them 24/7 in finding the best caregiver for their child care needs. And you can also provide families with backup care support in the form of backup child care credits.
Read more: Is built-in child care the next office trend? Here are 3 things to consider
4. Choosing a program that only supports your highest-paid employees
The different child care benefits programs available can be tailored to your workforce. With a stipend program, you can choose to customize the monthly stipend amount based on a variety of factors, including seniority of employees. While this can be a way to reward senior staff members, it often ends up supporting your highest-paid employees and doesn’t help the majority of your workforce, who probably need all the child care assistance they can get.
5. Focusing on and committing to an on-site child care center
When thinking about child care benefits, you may picture an on-site child care center. This is one way to go, however, it can be a mistake for several reasons. On-site child care centers require a large initial investment (plus ongoing maintenance costs), can be an insurance liability, often have long waitlists and larger class sizes, are typically limited to standard 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. hours, and are only convenient for on-site staff. Hybrid or remote employees may not be served well by this solution.
6. Not tailoring the program to the needs of your workforce
When considering child care benefits, it’s very important to assess your employees’ needs to inform your decision-making. Once you have an understanding on what types of care will be used most by your working families and have the biggest impact, you can select the right program tailored to their needs. Maybe you’ll find that what’s actually needed most by your workforce is backup care, for instance.
Read more: Investing in child care benefits creates a more equitable workforce
7. Insufficient rollout and internal messaging
As with any other important employee benefits program, a clear, effective rollout is key. Otherwise, you risk low usage and adoption rates by your working parents, limiting the efficacy of the program you’ve invested in.
8. Assuming working families with school-aged children don’t need child care benefits
One mistake some organizations still make is assuming child care benefits are only useful for families with young children, usually infants to five-year-olds. The truth is many families need to figure out a workable child care solution for their kids up to age 12. With most schools out around mid-afternoon, there is a two to three hour gap between the end of school and the end of the workday that parents struggle with on a daily basis. And then there’s summertime, when working parents must manage busy summer camp sign ups and make other care arrangements until the school year begins in the Fall. The lesson is that child care benefits can be a game-changer — even for families with school-aged children.
As you go through the important information-gathering phase and decision-making process, WeeCare can help you quickly determine how much you could be saving by offering child care benefits for employees.