The Future of Work Is Now: Offering Child Care Benefits Is Essential

BY Steve Hendershot | April 12, 2023

As the pandemic subsides and Americans return to a reimagined version of everyday life, the question is exactly how much reimagining is in order.

Will the millions of workers who grew accustomed to remote or hybrid work arrangements return to their desks? Offices are certainly busier than they were during the pandemic, but there remain plenty of signs that workers will continue to seek at least a measure of the flexibility they gained in recent years.

Family dynamics are changing, too, as working parents who spent more time in the home alongside their kids now attempt to redefine their work-life balance. Many experienced firsthand the relational value of family proximity during the pandemic—while also gaining appreciation for the challenges that go along with juggling child care and professional responsibilities.

As a result, working parents who are returning to the office are placing special emphasis on child care. Child care ranks as the second-most valuable benefit in retaining employees, ahead of paid time off and retirement contributions, according to a 2023 report from KinderCare. Two-thirds of working parents want their employers to offset the cost of child care, up five percent from 2020.

Sixty-nine percent of working parents said they had either switched jobs or would consider switching jobs because of childcare concerns, according to the report. Similar numbers reported a willingness to scale back their professional activities to better accommodate their kids’ needs.

Dan Figurski, president of the KinderCare Education and Champions divisions presenting on the importance of child care benefits at From Day One's Chicago conference (Photo by Tim Hiatt for From Day One)

That puts the stakes for employers in stark terms: support families or risk losing your people.  

Yet it’s unclear whether most companies are getting the message. In an informal, show-of-hands survey at From Day One’s conference in Chicago in March, a group of HR leaders indicated that forms of childcare support were far less common at their companies than other benefits.

“I’m not surprised by the hands that came down. I am surprised about the disconnect,” said Dan Figurski, president of the KinderCare Education at Work and Champions divisions within KinderCare Learning Companies. “The benefits that served us five years ago are not the benefits that are going to serve us going forward.”

One reason for the lagging adoption of child care benefits may be that employers don’t understand the extent of the burden that child care places on workers. Figurski said that during one presentation to a prospective health care client, the organization’s CEO asked an assistant how much of her income was allocated to child care—and was stunned when the answer was nearly half.

“We see the cost of childcare continuing to be a big prohibitor, and keeping people on the sidelines,” said Figurski.

Companies looking to add or expand their child care benefits have several options, ranging from strictly financial offerings such as subsidies and access to pre-tax dependent-care accounts, to providing either daily on-site care or backup care. In the KinderCare report, more than half of parents indicated they would be motivated to stay at their job if their employer offered on-site care, even though only 17 percent of full-time working parents said they currently had access to such a benefit.

The best approach varies based on the company, Figurski said. He recommends that companies start with a survey to assess their employees’ needs.

Investigating a child care benefit can feel unfamiliar for companies that offer traditional packages focused on health care, time off and retirement support. But working parents are making clear that in the post-pandemic work world, they’re relying on their employers for child care support.

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, KinderCare, who sponsored this thought leadership spotlight.

Steve Hendershot is an award-winning multimedia journalist and bestselling author. He hosts the Project Management Institute’s top-rated Projectified podcast and operates Cedar Cathedral Narrative Studio in Chicago.


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