Debunking the 5 Myths About Back-Up Child Care

Mom dropping son off at back-up care center
Child care breakdowns are expensive. Three quarters of working parents have had to skip work because of them. More than two dozen billable hours (per employee) are lost to them each year.
Understandably, employers want to solve these breakdowns. Yet handing employees a search portal and a password isn’t enough.
Self-serve platforms are a great start; but they can’t deliver you from missed workdays and lost client meetings on their own. In fact, if all you’re doing is reimbursing employees for self-selected care – versus finding care for them -- you’re only getting a fraction of a real back-up child care solution.
The myth of DIY is one misunderstanding of back-up child care. 
What are five others?
Employees have care options of their own: Not really. A third of respondents in one survey were lucky if they had one person to call in a pinch. And many of those who do have family decline to ask for fear of being a burden.  

It’s only an issue where there’s snow: Snow days indeed tank workdays. But teacher strikes can cause wide-spread outages, too. And anyone who suffered through storms like Harvey or Irma knows Mother Nature has more than snow at her disposal.  

It’s not an issue once children start grade school: The average calendar year includes about 250 workdays. The public school calendar runs 180. That leaves a difference of roughly 70 days a year that parents are without child care – and that doesn’t include the thousands of additional days lost to sniffles and sneezes.

Round-the-clock (24x7x365) coverage is all the same (and every provider can offer it): There’s a huge difference between calling an answering service off-hours to place a request (which may get worked on hours later) and being able to log on and instantly book fully vetted care whenever you want. Just ask the marketing director on a business trip who was more than happy to have someone find replacement care for her kids back home. “This was so easy,” she said.

Access always translates to availability: A nanny search tool is fine for the occasional no-school day. But what happens in late August, when every working parent is scrambling to fill the weeks between camp and school? Employees need exclusive options they don’t have to compete with the general public to book. They also need to be assured centers and in-home caregivers will be there when they are needed.
What’s the takeaway? Back-up child care is not just about access to sitters -- but how you provide access, and whether your coverage is expansive enough to do the job. It’s true that self-serve can fill gaps outside of densely populated areas. But a program that leaves all the heavy lifting to employees may be the same as having no program at all. And that’s no myth.
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Mom dropping son off at back-up care center

Subscribe to the On the Horizon Newsletter