Back-Up Care for Employers

When working parents experience a breakdown in their childcare arrangements, it’s often the employers who face the consequences. Childcare breakdowns are associated with absenteeism, tardiness, and reduced concentration at work and cost US based companies $3 billion dollars per year. Employer sponsored childcare solutions not only benefit employees, but benefit businesses too. Businesses that offer childcare solutions are better able to attract and retain talented working parents, who make up a significant amount of the working population. And when businesses invest in offering childcare solutions, they get a positive return on their investment including more consistent productivity, decreased absenteeism, improved morale, improved job satisfaction and a decrease in worker turnover.

The Need for Back-Up Care

According to a 2012 report in the Center for American Progress, three-quarters of parents between the ages of 25 and 44 are currently employed, and make up slightly more than half of all workers within that age group. The same report also cites that 90% of dads and 63% of moms work outside of the home for pay and that one-quarter of all working moms are single moms, further supporting the need working parents have for easily accessible and affordable childcare and back-up care.

For working parents childcare is a serious concern and a concern that is not limited only to the parents of newborns and young children.  In fact, research shows at the primary concern of working parents of school aged children is the safety of their children during afterschool hours.

Research conducted by Karen Shellenback and published in the publication entitled Child Care & Parent Productivity: Making the Business Case, the average working parent misses nine days of work per year for childcare related reasons. As young children move from spending their days in daycare to elementary school, the number of days that parents miss from work each year due to childcare related reasons increases to 13. The research also cites that 29% of employed parents experienced some form of childcare breakdown over the past three months. Childcare breakdowns force parents to scramble for last-minute childcare or to call out of work sick when no back-up care provider can be found. Since finding last-minute back-up care can be difficult, most parents are forced to call into work sick and care for their child themselves. According to a 2012 Parents & Work survey conducted by Flexjobs, 81% of parents have missed work in order to care for a sick child.

12 Common Reasons Employees Need Back-Up Care

There is any number of reasons a parent’s ongoing childcare arrangements fall through.  When there is a breakdown in a parent’s ongoing childcare arrangements, an employee is forced to either find back-up childcare or call into work sick in order to provide care for her child herself.

Having a corporate back-up childcare solution gives parents easy access to affordable back-up care. When parents have easy access to affordable childcare, employees are less likely to call in sick.

Back-up care is needed for when:

  • An employee has a child who is mildly ill and cannot attend daycare
  • An employee needs to travel overnight for work and her children need care
  • An employee needs to work overtime or extended hours
  • An employee has a nanny who calls in sick
  • An employee has a nanny who is going on vacation
  • An employee has a home daycare provider who is sick and unable to provide care
  • The school an employee’s children attend is closed on Monday holidays
  • The school an employee’s children attend is closed for inclement weather
  • The school an employee’s children attend is closed for winter or spring break
  • The school an employee’s children attend has a scheduled ½ day
  • An employee has their child on a waiting list to get into a childcare program
  • A new employee has relocated and needs to find a new childcare arrangement.

When parents have a reliable and affordable back-up childcare option, they are less likely to call out of work sick or to be distracted while in the workplace. Having a back-up care solution for employees reduces employee stress and increases their on the job productivity.

Corporate Back-Up Care Options

Employer sponsored back-up childcare is designed to supplement employees’ ongoing childcare arrangements.  Back-up childcare is not a replacement for regular, ongoing childcare. Having a corporate sponsored and subsidized back-up childcare program gives benefit- eligible employees easy access to affordable, high quality childcare when their ongoing childcare arrangements fall through and they need childcare most.

There are many corporate solutions for employers who wish to offer their employees back-up childcare options, though most solutions typically fall into five major categories.

Childcare Resource and Referral Programs

For many companies, the seemingly simplest solution is to build a resource and referral program for employees or to contract with an independent childcare resource and referral company that provides employees with help finding childcare. With resource and referral programs, a coordinator or placement specialist works to understand the employee’s childcare needs and conducts a detailed search for childcare on behalf of the employee. The coordinator or specialist than reports back to the employee with detailed information on the available childcare options that best suits the family’s childcare needs. Companies typically offer these resource and referral services at no cost to their employees.

Onsite Corporate Run Childcare Centers

Some businesses opt to open their own onsite childcare centers that provide ongoing childcare and back-up childcare for their benefit-eligible employees. Onsite childcare centers are expensive to build, staff, and operate, especially given the comparatively small percentage of employees they may serve. Since centers are located onsite, however, they do provide added convenience to employees and provide easy opportunities for parents to visit with their children and share a snack or lunch during their workday breaks.

Contracted Childcare Centers

Across the country there are childcare centers that are dedicated to serving employees of contracted corporations. Bright Horizons is one such center that contracts with corporations to provide back-up childcare. While there are several ways that these centers operate, most often companies pay a yearly membership fee to the center and in return, they are provided with an allotment of childcare days or hours each year for their employees to use as back-up childcare.  Since the childcare is subsidized by the employer, employees pay only a fraction of the cost of regular back-up childcare costs. These can range from $1 or more per hour to $20 or more per day. Some companies even offer their employees a set number of free calendar days of back-up childcare per year.

Contracts With Agencies for In-Home Childcare Providers

Another back-up care option is for companies to contract with nanny and babysitting placement agencies directly or through a company that specializes in providing and facilitating corporate benefits. Once a contract is in place, employees contact the agency directly or through their benefits coordinator to request that a prescreened childcare provider come to their home. Employees pay a reduced fee for securing a prescreened caregiver and reap the benefit of having their child cared for in the comfort of his own home. Since the caregiver comes to the family’s home, the hours that childcare is available are more broad and more flexible.

Partnerships with Online Nanny Recruiting Websites

One of the newest trends in corporate back-up care solutions is partnering with online nanny and babysitting recruiting websites to provide employees with steeply discounted or free memberships. Through the nanny and babysitting recruiting websites, parents can connect with local childcare providers who are able to provide back-up or temporary childcare. Parents have the ability to recruit, screen, interview, and hire their own back-up care providers. Since online sites offer a do-it-yourself model, parents must run the appropriate background and pre-employment screenings on their own; however most online sites like ,  and  offer integrated tools for parents to conduct these important screenings during their searching and hiring process.

Offering Back-Up Childcare Solutions Yields a Positive Return on Investment

When back-up childcare options are made available to employees, surveys show that employees feel that they are more productive at work and that they feel an increased loyalty to their employers. But the benefits don’t stop there. A 2003 report in the Wall Street Journal cited that according to WFD Consulting, employers can expect a return of $3 to $4 for every $1 invested in back-up childcare and some companies report as much as a 125% return on investment after the first 6 months of implementing a back-up childcare program and a 521% return on investment by the fourth year.

This positive return of investment comes in the form of decreased absenteeism, improved employee morale and job satisfaction, an increase in productivity and a decrease in employee turnover. One company reports saving 4,020 work days in a single year as a result of parents using employer sponsored back-up care instead of calling in sick.

Back-Up Childcare is Not Just a Benefit for Women

While historically women have shouldered the responsibility of caring for their sick children, with the rise of dual-career families, mothers are fathers are sharing the responsibility. A 2012 report entitled “Who Cares for Sick Kids?” presented by the Carey Instituted cited that while 74% of employed mothers report staying home from work when their child was sick, 40% of employed fathers stated the same. So while mothers still bear the brunt of the burden for caring for children when their back-up care arrangements fall through, dads too are faced with either finding back-up childcare options or calling into work sick to provide care themselves.

And according to James Levine, author of Working Fathers, in a San Francisco Chronicle report,” single fathers are the fastest-growing family group in the workforce.”

The Importance of Work-Life Balance for Employees

Companies that support their employee’s efforts to balance work and family have a greater ability to attract and retain talented and dedicated employees.  Employer sponsored work-life programs, like corporate back-up childcare solutions, can reduce stress amongst employees and help employees  stay focused and engaged while in the workplace.  But employer sponsored work-life programs do more than help provide parents with accessible and affordable childcare solutions. They’ve been proven to improve the overall quality of an employee’s life.

Supporting employees in their endeavor to balance family and work responsibilities benefits both employees and employers. Employers who make it a priority to help employees achieve work-life balance gain increased loyalty from employees. When parents know that their children are well-cared for, they become more productive, more focused and more loyal employees.