Support working parents

3 scaled child care benefits for companies

Working parents are stressed, employers are positioned to support with child care options
3 scaled child care benefits for companies
Photo: Lucian Coman (Shutterstock)
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Jessica Harrah is the Chief People Officer for KinderCare Learning Companies, where she oversees human resources for the company’s 35,000 employees nationwide. Jessica lives in Portland with her husband and their two sons.

There’s a new future of work emerging in America. Remote work is the new norm for some, while others are back to full-time in the office or a hybrid model. Employee benefits, too, are shifting.

Despite a competitive hiring environment, some employers are implementing policies that undermine recruitment and retention. As a result, some of the most popular employee benefits bolstered during the pandemic are being rolled back—and it’s hitting working parents hardest.

Cutbacks don’t meet parent needs

According to new data from the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2022 Employee Benefits Survey, fewer employers are offering dependent care flexible spending accounts, subsidized child care centers, and child care referral services as compared to 2021.

At the same time, there are clues that child care needs will continue to drive the future of work. According to KinderCare’s 2022 Parent Confidence Report, 74% of parents have switched jobs or would change jobs (pdf) to be more available for their child. More astoundingly, 55% of working parents say they would take a pay cut to work for a company employer that offered quality child care. Child care has become a key directive in working parents’ careers—and company leaders should take note.

Benefits that matter

Given record-high inflation and near-record-low unemployment, employers seek opportunities to offset rising costs and improve quality of life. For working parents, few benefits address these two needs better than those related to child care.

Fifty million U.S. workers (pdf)—one-third of the country’s workforce—are parents with a child under 14 at home. Whether accessing or affording child care, these benefits make a difference. 60% of parents would stay at their job (pdf) if it offered a child care benefit, reducing the long list of reasons today’s employees quit.

So, what can leaders do? For many leaders, adding a child care benefit may seem daunting. But here are scaled options companies can consider to address the child care needs of their workforce.

Start here:

  • Take the time to listen to your employees. Every workforce is different, and family needs may vary based on location and work environment (hybrid, fully remote, or entirely in the office). Listening can build trust, provide valuable information, and help employers right-size their response.
  • Accelerate child care access. In partnership with employers, many early child care providers offer ways to facilitate or guarantee employees a spot at a care center or ways to skip the lengthy waitlist.

Make progress:

  • Subsidize child care tuition. Employers can provide child care tuition benefits, subsidizing some of the costs employees pay at their local community-based center. This option offers flexibility for employers on the subsidy rate and for employees on where their children can go and the time of day they need care.
  • Backup care support. Giving working parents backup care takes family support even further. If regular care falls through—school closes, the sitter cancels, etc.—parents won’t have to panic and take a sick day because they’ll have a guaranteed, last-minute option they know they can trust and depend on.

Borrow from the best:

It’s time to bring new creativity and additional investment into attracting and retaining working parents. We know when employers support their people with child care solutions, those employees have confidence (pdf) in their professional and personal decisions creating a more engaged, loyal, and productive workforce.