Report Makes Business Case for Employer-Sponsored Child Care
By Lila Sahija
A new report from the International Finance Committee has laid out a clear case of benefits for employer-sponsored child care. After studying employers across the world who provide some form of corporate day care or child care benefits, the report confirms what parents everywhere already know: Employers that provide child care in some form see less turnover and absenteeism and more productivity; they attract and keep more skilled employees and have greater gender diversity in their workforce. Perhaps most compelling, from a business standpoint, is that by providing some sort of child care benefits for employees, businesses create a reputation that strengthens relationships with international buyers and “ensures greater and more long-term market access and growth opportunities.”
India, as far as policy goes, is a leader in this regard, at least on paper; among a handful of other countries, including Brazil, Chile, Japan, and Turkey, India actually has a law on the books mandating some form of employer-sponsored child care (in India’s case, onsite creches). India also has a history of private sector leaders stepping up to provide social safety nets for employees that the government can’t deliver. Which is what makes this report exciting; the creche mandate is far from perfect, and indeed anywhere in the world, most child care benefits for employees are flawed — if not in intention, in implementation. India’s offices are ripe to take home the lessons the report offers to help businesses support their employees’ parenting needs in a way that also grows their bottom lines.
5 lessons in employer-sponsored child care ROI
Corporate day care is not the only way to support parent-employees. Neither are mandated creches.
The report studied in-depth 10 businesses around the world (including one in India, and 14 global cases at a higher level, and found a wide variety of corporate child-minding services. From subsidizing employees’ fees for outside care, to providing emergency back-up care, to setting up onsite corporate day care, and more, there was no one-size-fits all strategy, and indeed, many businesses provided more than one type of support for parents. These benefits raised businesses’ profiles not only among their employees, but also within their communities, markets and to investors.
Child care support yields the most returns when it’s part of a larger push to support work-life balance.
The report found that employers who provided child care support experienced the most ROI when those benefits were implemented in tandem with other policies aimed at helping employees balance their professional and personal lives — particularly when external-facing departments like marketing and customer services were involved.
Employer-sponsored child care must support mothers — and fathers.
Case studies found that while many employers that provide child care services initially implemented them to attract and retain female employees, they are maximizing the dividends of these investments by (rightly) expanding focus to fathers, encouraging and enabling them to use the services as much as their female colleagues. (This is, perhaps, the biggest learning for India’s creche mandate; women aren’t the only ones who require creches.)
Employer-sponsored child care, in whatever form it takes, must be quality in order to yield ROI.
And here is, perhaps, the second-biggest learning for Indian companies and government policy: In a country where child care is primarily the realm of uneducated, unskilled and informal workers, employer-sponsored child care is only valuable — to employees and to the business — if it is of high quality and fairly compensated (which would include allowing child care workers to avail of the services for their own children).
Employer-sponsored child care is almost passé — the new frontier is supporting employees’ needs for broad family care, including elder care.
As populations age around the world, and economic and social changes move more families into dual-earning status, child care is only the first step in supporting employees’ work-life balance. Many companies around the world, the report says, is now moving to help employees balance care for elderly parents and inlaws as well — a move that will surely further gender diversity even more, since the majority of elder care falls on women.
The whole report is worth a read — and a forward to your corporate HR department….