The pandemic has prompted a childcare crisis — here are creative ways employers can help working parents on staff juggle it all
Many parents are concerned about how they'll handle childcare when returning to work, a Monster survey of US respondents showed. Companies of all sizes are bolstering childcare aid, from crisis childcare reimbursements to providing a facility for kids. PricewaterhouseCoopers added additional stipends for parents, Origin USA turned one of its warehouse facilities into a childcare center, and Dentaly allowed for a flexible work schedule. Helping parents out also helps businesses beyond increasing employee productivity: It helps with tax writeoffs and employee retention. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Sign up here to receive updates on all things Gender at Work. An exclusive survey shared with Business Insider by global online employment platform Monster shows that more than 84% of the more than 350 US respondents are concerned about how they'll handle childcare as they return to work during the coronavirus crisis. The May survey showed that a majority of respondents (62.1%) are "very concerned" about being able to find affordable childcare when they return to work, and more than half (52.8%) believe that their financial and childcare situation will not be the same when they return to the office. Additional concerns among working parents include finding safe and reliable childcare givers (42.1%), keeping their families healthy (39.6%), and being able to afford the necessary care (18.3%). With workers' minds clearly full as they return to the workplace, employers of all sizes are striving to ease the load on their employees by providing a range of childcare options to get them through this dilemma. PwC adds a crisis subsidy to its range of childcare solutions PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) beefed up its already strong program for working parents by adding a crisis childcare reimbursement stipend to its suite of childcare solutions. On a regular basis, PwC offers its employees up to $1,000 in emergency childcare support, and as a result of COVID-19 offered an additional back-up care reimbursement of up to $1,200, totaling $2,200 in backup support. The company also provides unprescribed sick leave for all full-time and part-time staff scheduled to work at least 1,000 hours per year. During the COVID-19 crisis, the company allowed workers to secure back-up care using their own personal network, including a family member, neighbor, friend, or babysitter, and provided an additional $1,200 to back this program.
The organization accompanies its cash outlay with an array of complimentary support programs, according to Mike Fenlon, PwC's chief people officer, and invested heavily in a remote work structure prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 that enabled it to lean on flexible work arrangements once the pandemic broke out. "We recognize the unique challenges being faced by parents who are juggling work life with homeschooling and childcare amidst school closures," Fenlon told Business Insider. "We have also built upon our longstanding approach to flexibility as many peoples' lives and routines have been changed. For example, we have a whole suite of wellness resources including mindfulness sessions, group coaching for parents, access to virtual exercise modules, and tips on blocking time and planning staycations." A mid-sized manufacturer adds educating young minds to its production schedule Based in Farmington, Maine, Origin USA is a manufacturer and global distributor of apparel, footwear, fitness gear, and nutritional supplements rooted in grappling and mixed martial arts. With a total of 72 employees, owners Pete and Amanda Roberts elected to turn the building that housed the company's original factory — normally in use as an Airbnb — into a childcare and enrichment program, all while the business pivoted to making masks for use in the crisis.
"We've always considered our employees to be extended family. So, considering the extended risk of our staff's family members, we put in place centralized and secured childcare just for our Origin family members," Pete Roberts told Business Insider. "This kept our entire Origin family less exposed and helped ensure continuity in manufacturing these much-needed masks." Origin hired the wife of an employee to run the facility and oversee the program. The facility ultimately served five families with a total of 10 children and was completely free to all participants.
"It was such a heartfelt gesture for Pete and Amanda to do this for everyone at Origin," said Jen Vogel, floor supervisor at Origin. "It was a great experience for my kids and comforting for me to know they had other kids they knew for the social aspect." Already a remote company? Make sure you build in flex time. All of the employees of Dentaly, an oral healthcare portal, were already working remotely before COVID-19 hit. Max Harland, the company's CEO, has found that since the pandemic, many of his employees are juggling childcare issues and increased stress because they're balancing the demands of their children's e-learning and other needs with their jobs. His solution? Offering a flexible work schedule to all Dentaly employees so that they can work when they're most productive.
"We don't want families to suffer or kids to go hungry or bored because their parents are trying to juggle too much all at once," Harland said. "We've also been regularly checking in with all of our employees to make sure they're comfortable with their workloads. If a parent finds themself unable to work as much as they normally would, that is absolutely okay with us and we'll help switch things up." Helping employees with childcare has concrete benefits for companies, too Torie Barry, a partner in the tax department of Atlanta-based accounting firm Bennett Thrasher, pointed out that companies can actually benefit from helping their employees navigate the complexities of childcare during this time. "Some of the tax incentives that apply to childcare are not very well known in the tax world," Barry told Business Insider. "Employers can provide the dependent care subsidy incentive to their employees. For the most part, it's tax-free to the employees, and it's something the employer can be eligible for either a deduction or a tax credit on, so it's a no-brainer to the employer." Barry also noted that, depending on the state in which they're based, businesses may be able to claim additional tax credits or file for further deductions. Similar benefits accrue for companies that elect to provide in-house childcare services for their employees, as Origin did for its workers. "When you have an in-house program, you're not paying for the subsidy, you're paying for the cost of the childcare itself and to run a facility," she said. "That same credit applies, both for federal and for the state." Barry also pointed out that the financial rewards aren't the only ones that accrue to the company when it ensures that employees' children are well taken care of. "It's a good retention tool as well," she said. "You're really investing in your employees and showing that you care about them, and investing in that."SEE ALSO: The no-code tools and strategies 2 thriving entrepreneurs used to quickly launch online ordering and keep business strong while their shops are closed NOW READ: How to take your company remote permanently while maintaining a positive culture and productive team, from CEOs and leaders who've done it Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button
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