How Does Back-Up Care Work

Back-up care is a highly sought-after employer-sponsored benefit. Why? It helps employees, as well as employers. Employees can use it to fill gaps in family care so they can make it to work. For employers, this results in more productive, engaged employees. Not to mention, back-up care boosts retention and recruitment efforts, too.

Children playing in Early Learning Center
Over 60% of families in the U.S. have both parents employed, and over 78.2% have at least one parent employed. Yet, according to 2020 research by Clutch, only 6% of companies offered back-up child care or any other child care benefits. This has since changed — many employers are introducing family care benefits that support their working parents and working caregivers. 

But how does back-up care work? And, first things first, what is back-up daycare? What is back-up child care? Can back-up care be used for other family members, too? Take a look at our breakdown of back-up care below.

Back-Up Child Care: What Is It?

Child care is more essential to working parents than ever before. Families need child care to make it to work; they need to work in order to maintain financial security. However, even with the best laid child care plans, parents are bound to encounter scheduling hiccups, last-minute caregiver cancellations, and more. Enter: back-up care.

Back-up child care fills the gaps when regular child care plans fall through. When your kids have a snow day or school holiday, your go-to sitter is busy, or your caregiver cancels, back-up care can help. 

Every employer-sponsored back-up care program is different — you might have access to in-home care, center-based care at daycare centers, or both. This is different than drop-in care; a drop-in daycare center is typically used outside of the work day, while back-up care is designed to help parents make it to work.

Other Types of Back-Up Care

Back-up child care is just one part of this helpful benefit. Your back-up care program might also include back-up care for adult and elder loved ones — in your home or theirs. Plus, you might be able to take advantage of back-up care for yourself, post-surgery, after having a baby, and more.

How Does Back-Up Care Work?

The way back-up care works depends on your employer’s program.

Generally, you’ll have a phone number to call or a website or app to visit in order to request care. You’ll specify the date(s) and time(s) you need care, and the program/provider will take it from there.

Whether you’re using back-up care in child care centers or daycare centers or back-up care in your own home, you’ll have to fill out paperwork or online forms prior to care, and you’ll likely receive information about what to expect/what your child will need for the day.

Your employer might offer a certain number of annual back-up care uses to each employee; others offer back-up care for a low copay. 

No matter what type of back-up care program you have, this benefit can save a lot of stress. 

Back-Up Care Backs Employers

Child care gaps that cause stress for employees also cause a loss in business productivity for employers. Every year, revenue is lost from absenteeism and productivity declines due to these gaps.

So, how does back-up care work for employers? Employers that offer back-up care programs typically have a lower turnover rate, higher retention, and stronger employee loyalty. When employees are productive, engaged, and less stressed about family care, employers reap the benefits, too.

A Growing Concern for Millennials

Millennials will represent 75% of the entire global workforce by 2025. Many of them are parents; others are caring for their aging family members. Some are doing both — and they don’t want to be forced to choose between family care and their careers.  

According to Pew Research, over 50% of working parents find it difficult to find a work-life balance. The majority of Millennials are more than willing to give up a high-paying job for a job that prioritizes providing employees with a healthy work-life balance, according to a survey from Fidelity.

If you’re a working parent or caregiver, seek out employers that offer back-up care benefits; if you’re an employer, consider adding a back-up care program to your employee benefits package. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.


What is back-up dependent care?

Back-up dependent care is a family care solution for your children and adult and elder loved ones.

What is Bright Horizons?

Bright Horizons is a leading provider of early education and child care. We offer child and elder care benefits, back-up care, employer-sponsored child care programs, child care centers in communities, education assistance, college coaching, and more for employers and employees around the world. 

How much is back-up care?

It depends. With some back-up care programs, you’ll be able to reserve a certain number of back-up care uses before a fee is incurred. With other programs, you’ll have to pay a low copay, which will likely be more affordable than hiring a sitter or other caregiver, and also varies depending on your location.
mother holding child

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Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.