California Moves to Make Back-Up Care Law. Answers to 4 of the Biggest Questions

Working mom dropping kids off at back-up care center

One of the big lessons of the pandemic is what it revealed about child care: specifically, when parents don’t have it (dependable, affordable child care) they can’t work. 

“About 6% of unemployed Americans,” wrote CNBC earlier this year, “say the main reason they’re currently not working is that they’re caring for children who are not in daycare or school.” 

It’s a problem that predated the pandemic, and that will continue long after it ends. And it explains interest in a pending bill that aims to require employers in California to begin providing back-up care at the start of next year. 

Filed in the California Assembly on February 18 of this year, California AB 1179 was drafted to answer both a dire need for working families, and a mandate to support racial and gender equity. 

“Covid-19 has impacted women, and specifically women of color, at disproportionate rates,” Wendy Carrillo, the California state Assemblywoman who introduced the bill, said in a statement earlier this year. “Now, more than ever, is the time to re-imagine and rebuild systems that work for women and that work for families,” she said.

Four important questions and answers about the bill: 

What does AB 1179 require?

The bill would require employers to provide employees who work in California for the same employer for 30 or more days with up to 60 hours of paid backup child care benefits accrued annually starting on January 1, 2022. Employers are broadly defined under the bill, and include private employers with 1,000 or more employees. Care could be arranged and paid for by employers for use by employees or employers could pay or reimburse employees for the cost of care arranged by employees.

What is back-up child care under AB 1179?

AB 1179 defines back-up child care as care provided by a qualified back-up child care provider to the employee’s child when the employee’s regular child care provider cannot be utilized. 

How does AB 1179 affect employers who already provide back-up child care benefits to employees?

Back-up care programs take many forms, and we can only speak to the programs we offer to clients. The standard Bright Horizons Back-Up Care program is more generous than the benefit proposed under AB 1179 and would meet the requirements of back-up child care under the current bill language.  

Where does AB 1179 go from here?

AB 1179 was approved by the Committee on Labor and Employment on April 22, 2021 and referred to the Committee on Appropriations. A hearing in the Committee on Appropriations has not yet been scheduled.  

As with any bill, AB 1179 is expected to continue to be discussed and revised throughout the legislative process in the California State Assembly. Just as important, employers who offer back-up services from providers other than Bright Horizons will need to carefully assess these programs for their compliance with AB 1179.

If this bill advances, its promise could be welcome news for many working families who don’t currently have access to affordable back-up child care. “The Covid-19 pandemic has made clear the challenges U.S. parents face when child care falls through,” wrote CNBC earlier this year. “And despite being roughly a year into the pandemic, the challenges of child care have not diminished for many American families.”

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Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

April 27, 2021

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.