What’s Wrong With Most Childcare Benefit Programs?

Tradition. It’s important for families, holidays, cuisine — the list goes on and on. But employee benefits? Do traditional childcare benefits still get the job done? The short answer is no, they were built for the highest-paid whitecollar workers and are inaccessible to 90% of average employees.

Traditional employee childcare benefits never really worked for the median working family, so why do we continue to use the same programs?

Childcare, and our idea of what an employer-sponsored childcare benefits program looks like, should not be rigid and unchanged over time. Working families are in many different situations now and need a modern approach to childcare benefits.

(Pst! Let us know if you’d like to learn more from Upwards about modern childcare benefits for employees.)

Childcare benefits pre-COVID

Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, childcare was still a challenge for most families in terms of finding and affording care. There were not many childcare programs built to be employer-focused. Organizations supported their workforce with other types of benefits while childcare was left for working families to figure out on their own.

In the rare cases where employers did offer some type of childcare benefits, the offerings were merely adequate — and not nearly comprehensive enough to meet the needs of all employees. Programs were either only accessible to the highest-paid members of the company or limited to:

After going through the pandemic, we realize the crucial role that childcare plays in society now more than ever. It’s clear just how important childcare benefits for employees really are. In the “new normal,” it is vital to support all types of workers with employer-sponsored childcare benefits programs.

Childcare and work-life changes since COVID began

For many working adults, there is life before the middle of March, 2020, and life after it. COVID forced many employees to do their jobs remotely. Working from home is exactly where millions of Americans still find themselves, over two years later. As a result, our family life is even more intertwined with our work lives in a very tangible, visible way.

Whether they work remotely or in person, employees with children need childcare to be productive and remain at their jobs. “The Great Resignation” means that working-class families need more support than ever before, with a majority of workers leaving jobs due to low pay and around half due to childcare issues.

Employers have begun realizing the status quo no longer works for a vast portion of the American workforce. Better working conditions, including care benefits such as employer-sponsored childcare benefits, are being demanded and expected in a very competitive labor market.

Childcare benefits help employers and employees

In this landscape, businesses must take measures to stand apart from other companies.

Fortunately for organizations competing to retain and attract top talent, it is easier and more cost-effective now to offer employee childcare benefits. Even better, it is beneficial for you as an employer.

Childcare benefits for employees are an incredibly affordable way to support your working families, with costs starting as low as $0.78 per employee per month for Upwards’ Childcare Assistance program, for instance. There are multiple ways to structure employer-sponsored childcare benefits these days, from stipends to backup care, so you can choose the best fit for your workforce.

In addition to increased affordability, employers have many ROI reasons to offer employee childcare benefits. Everything from reducing turnover and decreasing employee absenteeism, to increasing productivity and boosting recruitment are powerful motivating factors.

Employer childcare benefits truly have a positive impact on employees and the organizations where they work.

Childcare benefits for your workforce

While tradition has its place in many facets of our society, looking to the future benefits all of us. We can still honor the past while evolving in the present.

Upwards, the largest childcare network in America and a leading provider of employee childcare benefits, is well-positioned to be your modern answer to support working families at your organization.

The foundation of our childcare network is over 60,000 small childcare providers. These qualified, vetted caregivers provide high-quality, affordable childcare with flexible schedules, small class sizes, and the capacity to care for school-aged children.

Our employee childcare benefits programs are comprehensive yet affordable, for both employers and their employees. Upwards’ childcare benefits options include:

As an employer, you have the flexibility to customize the offerings to best suit your workforce.

When you’re ready to weigh your options for non-traditional employee childcare benefits, drop us a quick note at benefits@upwards.com.


The largest childcare network in the United States, providing access to quality, affordable childcare to families nationwide. We support childcare providers in operating sustainable businesses through a technology-based marketplace and partner with government entities to improve access to care. Upwards also helps employers of all sizes offer their employees childcare benefits. Our mission is to help all families care for their children — not just those who can afford it.

Related Articles