Working Parents and Child Care: C'mon, There Has to Be a Solution!

child care trilemma and solutions for productivity for working parent employees

"C'mon...there has to be a solution!"

That was the exasperated response from a young mother who was trying to find flexible, affordable, high quality child care so she could work. She, along with several other employed young mothers, was highlighted in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor.

The article summarized the story of working parents and child care namely, the uphill climb that parents face when looking for child care that accommodates their work schedule at a price they can afford.

A Continuing Challenge for Employees and Employers

This dynamic is not new. The challenges of finding appropriate child care have been the subject of discourse for years; President Obama even discussed child care in the State of the Union Address earlier this year.

Simply put - most parents need to work to support their families, and they need child care so they can work. If the child care doesn't exist or meet their needs, parents are not able to be fully engaged at work. In some cases, they're not able to work at all. Both scenarios present a problem for more than just parents.

The Child Care Trilemma

When Horizons Workforce Consulting talks with employers about the feasibility of offering dependent care supports, we outline three specific child care challenges (or the trilemma) that parents face when looking for quality child care:

  • If the care is available, it is often not high quality
  • If the care is high quality, it is often not affordable
  • If the care is high quality and affordable, it is often not available
With an employer-sponsored child care center, employers can solve for all these areas -  providing high quality and affordable care in the community.

The Across-the-Organization ROI Of Child Care

Our survey database from conducting over 20 years of feasibility studies shows that these centers have company-wide benefits, particularly in areas such as recruiting and retention. But our research on worksite child care tells us that it also benefits the rest of the organization... not just those who have their children enrolled in the center and no longer have to worry about the child care trilemma.

Consider the aggregate data from tens of thousands of respondents who were asked the question, "Regardless of whether or not you will directly benefit from the child care center, how do you feel an employer-sponsored center will impact your employer in the following areas?"

Their answers: on-site child care statistics for employers and ROI

Child Care and The Rest of Your Workforce

Further, in focus groups, we heard from employees without children that:

Co-workers are negatively impacted when a colleague is distracted by doubts about their arrangements, checking on their child multiple times a day.

Co-workers are required to "pick up the slack" when the parent-employee must leave work early to pick up their child, because their current child care arrangement does not offer the length of day needed to complete their work.

Co-workers become frustrated when their colleagues are distracted because a child care provider suddenly quits and they don't know how they're going to quickly find a suitable replacement.

Every time I have the opportunity to speak with an organization's leadership or individual parent employees, I talk about why the employer should seriously consider making an investment in a high quality child care program.

Yes, it's greatly needed. And yes, it would help working parents. But what's clear from our research is that the net result benefits everyone -  even the boss.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

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.