Employer-sponsored child care support for employees is not a new concept. The most traditional child care benefits used to be day care at a headquarter office—a benefit for those who spend their 9-5 at one central location every day. However, tailwinds of the pandemic have amplified employees’ expectations for more flexible work arrangements. After our nation’s child care infrastructure collapsed in 2020, with schools and day care center closures, parents—and employers—started to define a new normal. A “normal” where flexibility, equity, and scale are the priority to support working caregivers at home, so they can perform their best at work. In fact, the 2021 Future of Benefits Report, a guide to what’s next for employee benefits, found that 61% of HR leaders prefer flexible care options compared to on-site child care.
Why Are Child Care Benefits Essential Today?
In today’s job market, people aren’t only working for money or a position title anymore. Employees are rethinking how their job fits in with their lifestyle. This led to the Great Resignation, in which the power of employee retention shifted to the hands of workers. After flexibility and pay, access to better child care and senior care support is one of the top reasons employees leave their job.
That’s because caring for their families is a growing concern for many employees. With the monthly cost of child care for two children surpassing the cost of rent in some parts of the country, families are looking to companies that offer them support. Workers don’t want to be put in a position where they have to choose between work and family. A recent Care survey of our clients found that employees across all age groups report needing access to child care benefits. Ninety-six percent of workers aged 30-49 fell into this category, along with 69% of employees in their 50s, 62% of those ages 18-29, and 22% of employees in their 60s.
Enter on-site child care centers. On-site centers are typically used for regular child care or as backup care for corporate employees. However, on-site child care no longer fits the way we work. The new normal has ushered in hybrid work models, as well as the need for more flexible and affordable care options.
4 Reasons Flexible Care Options Are More Popular Than On-site Child Care
Nothing is more frustrating for an employee than being told they have child care benefits only to find out they can’t use them. To attract top talent to your company, your care benefits need to be available to employees that work not only from home, but also from multiple state locations and possibly other countries. Flexible care helps you remain competitive as an employer for both in-office and remote workers in a number of ways:
- Rising Costs: According to the 2022 Cost of Care Survey, 63% of parents say child care costs more this year with 51% of parents saying it costs more than 20% of their household income. And while on-site child care slots may be prioritized for senior leadership, these rising costs mean those in more junior roles are actually the ones who need it most.
- Scalability: According to studies, nearly 36.2 million Americans could be working remotely by 2025. In fact, a growing number of employees want to work from home, with studies stating that 91% of workers in the U.S. working remotely are hoping their ability to work at home continues into the future. Employees need accessible care near where they now work, which for many may be a residential home office far away from a major city. This means remote and flexible work employees can’t take advantage of on-site child care when they’re working from home. If you have multiple offices, it would be costly to offer care across all these locations vs. more flexible options designed for the dispersed workforce.
- Capacity Issues: For those employees working in major cities, it’s still difficult to find adequate care. During the pandemic, 16,000 day care centers closed and many child care facilities never reopened. With low child-to-caregiver ratios, the on-site child care facilities that are available can often only accept so many kids—and once they’re at capacity, the center starts to be an inequitable solution.
- Benefit Equity: Offering only in-office perks and one-size-fits-all care benefits is no longer competitive in today’s job market. Employee child care needs are as varied as their lifestyles. This is why providing employees with choice and flexibility is the best way to support them. This means child care benefits should take into consideration care for every age, special needs children, multilingual approaches, program/educational philosophy, and location.
Employees expect their company leadership to support a sustainable work/life balance that incorporates flexible location, hours, and benefits like backup child care. In our customer survey, 87% of employees said they would have to miss work if they didn’t have access to their Backup Care benefit. Your return-to-work plan should offer flexible child care options that fit the needs of a diverse, spread-out workforce. This could include Backup Care for when your employees’ normal care falls through and/or a Care Membership, which gives them unlimited access to the world’s largest network of caregivers for children, seniors, pets, tutoring, housekeeping, and more.