Child care has quite literally always been the biggest pain point for working parents (and for their employers). Despite the long-reaching impact of these costs on families, employers, and society at large, employers have historically had limited options to support their working families.
Yet, with the onset of COVID-19, “the whole house burned down” for working parents, especially mothers (according to the Center for American Progress). Driven by the urgency and severity of the crisis, many employers are, for the first time, considering how to support their working parent population’s child care needs in a way that is effective, equitable, and affordable.
Below we’ll highlight some of the biggest pitfalls and best practices that we’ve learned from thousands of conversations and customers for employers who are looking for ways to support working families for the first time:
1. There Is No Silver Bullet
HR professionals instinctively search for a single, elegant solution to broad population pain points. Yet, the unique needs of employees with children dictate that the most successful strategies are driven by a “menu” of options for working families that offer best-in-class solutions to each of the discrete child care stresses that families face: financial, schedule, access, and quality.
The data we’ve seen backs this up: utilization rates increase when families have access to choice, and so, then, does ROI.
2. Flexibility Only Works if it’s Rigid
Offering “flexible work schedules” is a seemingly easy way to support working families, but can backfire if that flexibility isn’t rigidly enforced by policies and culture within the company.
In fact, in our conversations with employers small (0-50 people) and large (10,000+), we’ve found that “flexible work policies” without additional support or policies is the largest driver of burnout among working parents. Rather than achieving its stated goal of flexible working, parents are forced to work in the margins of their days (or more likely, early mornings and nights).
Flexibility is most effective as a tool when accompanied by key policies like no meeting days, no email times, and mandatory vacation days.
3. Focus on Being Equitable, not Equal
Too often, HR teams confuse the very admirable goal of deploying “equitably distributed” benefits for a mandate to deploy “equally distributed” benefits across their organization. Equitably distributed benefits support specific employee populations that need the most support with focused, tailored offerings. Equitably distributed benefits are high-impact, high-utilization efforts designed to solve a specific set of issues.
Equally distributed benefits, conversely, assign the same value and set of offerings to the entire company irrespective of need — and has the opposite of the intended effect: low utilization and high costs.
Parents’ needs, as a population, are the most urgent today, and they are most vulnerable to external pressures (indeed, mothers have left the workforce at a 3x to men). As a result, it’s only appropriate that the child care benefits offered to them (and budget allocated towards it) should reflect the intensity of the crisis facing them.
4. Money is Only Part of The Issue – Give Parents What They Need
Parents’ issues as it relates to child care come down to two major components: accessibility and cost. Families need support finding quality care and paying for it.
The most active employers are finding ways to support families on both sides of that equation. Not surprisingly, we’ve found that employers who take a holistic approach towards supporting families have the biggest upside. However, being able to support even part of that equation provides immense relief to working families.
“Sponsored child care was one of the missing, yet essential, benefits that I am thrilled to be able to provide our committed parent employees. The challenges working parents face are plentiful and far reaching, and this is another example of how knowing what matters aids in supporting our valued community.” – Eileen Benwitt, EVP and Chief Talent Officer, Horizon Media
The Big Picture
These are four very simple strategies as an HR professional and a company leader that you can take to support your working families effectively, equitably, and affordably. While there are more options available to organizations who care today than ever, what’s most important is being thoughtful and disciplined about addressing the challenges that families actually face.
Although it certainly takes effort, building and implementing a successful benefits strategy to support working families is one of the most impactful investments of time and money that an organization can undertake — driving performance, loyalty and culture in a way that nothing else can replicate.
We Partner With Employers to Support Working Parents
Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to make high-quality full-time and backup care more accessible and affordable. With flexible offerings and global coverage across on campus, in-home, in-office and virtual care, Vivvi meets the needs of your business and your employees where you are.
Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits and ROI our child care offerings have provided to businesses like yours.