What is Back-Up Daycare?

As a parent, you know very well just how unpredictable life can be -- your nanny quits unexpectedly, your babysitter cancels for the evening, or your child care center is closed for the day. For families that need flexibility in their schedules, drop-in daycare can be a reliable solution.

What is a drop-in child care center, though? And what is back-up child care — are they the same thing? While these centers share many similarities with each other (and with traditional daycares), they also have key differences. We’ve got it all covered!

Teacher reading a book to an infant

Child Care for Working Families

Working parents need child care; back-up daycare can help. Employers nationwide have begun to offer company-sponsored back-up care for employees. Why? It solves family care needs, which, in turn, increases employee productivity and engagement.  
Annually, the economy faces a $57 billion loss in revenue due to lost productivity and earnings. Finding daycare is a challenge for many employees – 32 percent of parents have trouble finding daycare. Finding affordable daycare is even more difficult – in 28 states, the average annual cost of center-based child care is more expensive than the average cost of public college tuition and fees. 

When working parents can’t find the child care they need, they can’t make it to work – in fact, 30% of respondents  report feeling like they have diminishing career opportunities because of the lack of child care options. Back-up daycare can help bridge child care gaps and make it easier for employees to focus on work, even when regular child care arrangements fall through. 

Okay, So — What is Back Up Daycare?

Daycares close temporarily. Schools call snow days. Relatives who normally provide child care go out of town. Nannies have emergencies. And kids get sick! You never know what life might throw at you, and these child care crises can cause you to miss a day (or more) at work.

That’s where back-up daycare comes in.

But what is back up daycare? When a snag in your usual child care routine occurs, back-up daycare can help you find an alternative. It’s an employee benefit growing in popularity – and it benefits employers, too. Easily accessible, it’s an emergency service employees can take advantage of to cover gaps in their child’s care, instead of having to stay home and miss work. 

Not only is back-up daycare an employee recruitment tool, it helps with retention and overall morale, too. Companies with back-up daycare benefits see a significantly higher employee retention rate for working parents and those who are expecting a baby.

How Back-Up Care Works

You may be wondering, how does back up care work? This can vary by company, but back-up care programs usually include access to care for children, as well as adult and elder relatives.

Typically, you can call, visit a website, or use an app to reserve vetted, trained caregivers. Some programs offer care in child care centers, others offer in-home care, and some provide a combination of the two. 

Will you have to pay? Maybe – it all depends on your employer’s benefit. You might have a back-up care copay; or, you might have access to a certain amount of back-up care requests per year.


What is Bright Horizons?

Bright Horizons is a leading provider of child care and early education, with over 30 years of expertise. In addition to back-up care, we offer early education and preschool in centers worldwide, education assistance benefits for working learners, college coaching for students and their families, elder care, and more.

How does Bright Horizons Back-Up Care™ work?


Employees deserve easy access to high-quality family care – whenever they need it. Bright Horizons Back-Up Care offers nationwide coverage, with a network of in-home caregivers for children, adults, and elders, plus back-up care in child care centers across the country.

mother holding child

Get Started Today

Find a center near you to get started with Bright Horizons

Or call us to start the conversation 877-624-4532

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.