It’s no secret working moms are anxious, overworked and on the verge of quitting their jobs. With just one in seven kids returning to full-time school this fall, and daycares shuttering across the country, many parents are bracing for months more of desperately trying to perform the role of teacher, cook, housekeeper and employee, all at once.
Thankfully, some companies recognize that working parents have been put in an untenable position, with little chance of relief on the horizon. In addition to offering benefits such as flexible and/or reduced schedules and paid leave, many have added or expanded programs meant to help parents cover the cost of childcare.
That’s crucial because high-quality childcare is so difficult to find right now. In California, for example, a quarter of daycares have closed, equaling a loss of 19,000 spots. Experts warn that up to 40 percent of daycares could permanently close across the country if Congress doesn’t provide the industry with more financial aid. And parents who can afford it have snapped up private sitters and tutors, leaving fewer and fewer affordable choices for working parents who could use a reprieve.
Bridget Garsh, the COO and co-founder of NeighborSchools, a site that connects parents with small family childcare providers, said she's heard from HR leaders from companies both large and small, who are searching for ways to support working parents "because the problem simply can't be ignored any longer."
"The majority of companies have historically under-valued and under-appreciated the importance of childcare for their workforce, especially working moms, and they have largely left parents to fend for themselves," she says, noting that only 19 percent of companies provide childcare benefits, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2019 Employee Benefits Survey. "Of those that have offered childcare benefits, they've primarily included corporate centers with limited spots and expensive price points that are simply unaffordable for many families or backup care options which don't cover parents' long-term needs. COVID has forced companies to realize that parents simply can't do their jobs without childcare. They're less productive, their stress levels are through the roof and sadly many of them are thinking of leaving the workforce because it's all too much."
That's what KPMG LLP learned from the check-in surveys and focus groups it began hosting to keep abreast of how its employees are doing and what additional support or resources they may need. "One of the things we heard loud and clear is that while work-life balance is a challenge for everyone right now, it’s a particularly significant concern for parents and caregivers as the new school year begins amid so much uncertainty,” says Darren H. Burton, their vice chair of HR. “Once we heard this, we went right to work to identify ways we can provide assistance, by enhancing some of our existing benefits programs and introducing new ones.”
The professional services firm quadrupled the number of backup care days available to employees, expanded access to discounted tutoring, academic support and homework assistance and expanded its network of childcare centers to offer discounts at more than 2,000 centers nationwide.
KPMG isn’t alone. Childcare benefits are becoming a big way companies are helping working parents right now. Here are the additional perks other top employers are offering:
The biopharmaceutical company offered 25 days of emergency backup care March through May. In June, Sanofi offered another 25 days of subsidized in-home or center-based backup care for all employees. Employees also have free membership to an online tool that provides access to nannies, sitters, home cleaners, pet caretakers and more.
The medical solutions company has increased its backup care and now offers 15 days through Care.com, as well as covering “out of network” caregivers so that working parents have the flexibility to use those subsidized days for caregivers within their personal networks. The company is also launching programs to facilitate learning pods as well as nanny shares for employees who live near each other.
Bank of America
Bank of America might have the most generous backup childcare program available—there’s no limit on the number of days employees can claim while they’re working from home or in the office through year-end. Starting August 16 and running through December 31, the bank’s employees can get daily childcare reimbursements of $75 or $100, depending on their compensation, for children up to and including 12 years of age. For children with special needs, the age requirement is up to 21 years of age. Employees also get priority access to learning hubs for school-age children, which will be offered through a Bright Horizons partnership with Mathnasium and Sylvan, providing the opportunity for children in distance learning to participate in small groups with an in-person educator.
Before COVID-19, the animal health company offered employees whose childcare fell through 10 days a year to send their children to a backup facility run by Bright Horizons. Employees paid $15 a day for one child or $25 daily for two or more kids. Employees who used in-home backup childcare were reimbursed for $6 an hour, but they had to use a caregiver in the Bright Horizons network. The company changed its childcare offerings, and now employees can use whomever they wanted to watch their child—family members, friends, neighbors—and they can receive reimbursement of $100 a day for 40 days. Employees also have free access to Sittercity, an online marketplace for in-home care.
The professional services firm doubled its backup care reimbursement to $2,000 and is offering discounts on nanny placements, tuition programs and tutoring.
In June, the cloud-based software company increased its global backup childcare offerings through the summer so employees can get reimbursed up to $100 per day for five days each month. In August, the company extended that through the end of January 2021.
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.