How does employer-sponsored backup childcare work for employees?

How Does Backup Childcare Work?

Do you remember your security blanket? Maybe you can still picture it vividly. If you had one as a child, it provided both physical comfort and emotional support. It feels like those two concepts are more important now than ever.

For working parents, childcare concerns are always simmering in the background. Sometimes everything goes smoothly and other times there are disruptions to pre-arranged childcare plans. Unsurprisingly, parents end up dealing with many “other times” circumstances.

That’s why employer-sponsored childcare benefits like backup care are so critical. Backup childcare serves as a security blanket — for working families, certainly, but for the organizations that employ them as well. It provides the physical childcare that families need together with emotional reinforcements for weary working parents.

As an employer weighing the various support options you have to provide to your workforce, we know you’ve got a lot on your mind. At Upwards, we strive to simplify complex topics and spur fruitful conversations around employee childcare benefits. Let’s delve into the nuts and bolts of the particular type of childcare benefit offering called backup care.

After discovering how childcare stipends operate, you will probably find that you also need to know more about backup care when considering all your benefit options to support employees needing care for their families.

Secure your spot on Upwards’ demo calendar to hear more about backup care and other employee childcare benefit programs.

What Are Backup Childcare Benefits for Employees?

It’s clear by now that workers need reliable childcare to perform at their best for their employers. Even when parents find a childcare solution that’s working for them, it’s safe to expect the unexpected and wise to plan for these last-minute surprises. Essentially, backup care provides an invaluable safety net for working parents.

Examples are nearly endless, but just a few scenarios that pose a problem are when a parent’s regular childcare falls through, school is closed that day, or Grandma and Grandpa need to cancel watching the kiddos, giving very short notice.

In most of these situations, stress levels spike for parents. Their productivity takes a dive as they have no choice but to juggle childcare responsibilities while attempting to remain focused on their work. Or they are forced to miss time altogether. When a parent needs childcare for one day due to unforeseen circumstances, backup care is an excellent solution.

Commonplace reasons employees need backup care

  1. Kids staying home sick
  2. Emergencies caused by inclement weather
  3. Family is stuck on a waiting list for childcare
  4. Random school closures for teacher work days
  5. Multiple holidays on the school calendar
  6. No school during the summer
  7. Misalignment between school and work schedules

Backup care in-depth

Curious to find out exactly how corporate backup childcare works? Here is a look at how your employees can use their employer-sponsored backup care benefits:

  • Each parent in your organization is allotted a specific number of backup care credits to utilize per month or per year.
    • It is up to you as an employer to determine how many backup care credits employees receive. Typically, one backup care credit equals one full day of childcare. The number of days any working parent will need backup care varies, as they might be in a situation where they have backup childcare needs several times in a month or they could go several months without having to utilize it.
  • When last-minute childcare needs arise, parents notify the benefits provider to share when backup care support is needed and a childcare match is found as soon as possible to care for their child.
    • Home daycare providers and caregivers are all qualified to provide backup childcare for working families. If a home daycare near your employee has space on that particular day, they can be a backup care match. Backup childcare is essentially childcare that can’t be planned in advance.
  • With backup care in place, your employee doesn’t have to miss that day of work after all. They can work distraction and stress-free with the knowledge their kiddo is being cared for, all thanks to the generous support from you as their employer.
    • Even when working parents have already made childcare arrangements, there are invariably times when plans change at the last minute and backup care is needed. With no corporate backup care program established, employees are certain to miss valuable work time scrambling to find childcare or calling out sick altogether in order to care for their children. Backup care supports your working parents while safeguarding the organization from lost productivity and absenteeism.

Backup care acts as a safety net for employees, providing a valuable childcare benefit that ensures working families can still find care when they need it most.

Is backup care a primary concern for working families?

Now that we’ve covered how backup childcare works, you may be wondering, how important is backup care for employees?

  • Despite the “backup” label, this type of care is in increasing demand by working parents all over the country who are balancing their careers and family life.
    • Working families are busier than ever, juggling the constant pressures of childcare, school, and work schedules every day of the week to try to make everything run smoothly. Parents know all too well that even with a solid childcare plan in place for the bulk of the time, there will be instances when someone is sick, an emergency arises, or school is closed. That’s when backup care becomes paramount.
  • While balancing these demands has always been a bit of a high-wire act, the last couple of years of the pandemic have made things worse.
    • Before March 2020, childcare was a perpetual challenge for working parents as they tried to access and afford quality care that fit their families’ schedules and budgets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we saw just how fragile the patchwork childcare solutions so many parents rely on really are. We now view childcare and schools as what they are: critical infrastructure. Working families have been stretched to the brink, compounding an already stressful childcare situation into an outright childcare crisis.
  • Parents need your support in the form of childcare assistance, stipends, and backup care in order to get through the workday smoothly. Without it, these working parents cannot be as productive as you need them to be for your organization.
    • How effective can your workforce be if they’re struggling daily with childcare concerns? Their worries can range from actually finding quality caregivers with availability to being able to pay for the exorbitant costs and figuring out what to do when the unexpected happens and childcare arrangements don’t work out as planned. The bottom line is that employee childcare benefits like backup care are incredibly important for working parents as well as their employers.

Upwards brings backup care to your working families

Upwards is the largest network of childcare providers in the U.S. and a market leader in employee childcare benefits. Over 60,000 small childcare providers make up our childcare network.

Our compassionate caregivers offer the affordable, high-quality childcare options that working families are looking for. Flexible scheduling, smaller class sizes, and the capacity to provide care for school-aged children are some select features of our vast childcare network.

Want to learn about Upwards' Childcare Benefits?
Childcare AssistanceBackup CareChildcare Stipends
Dedicated care manager to provide 24/7 concierge supportEmergency childcare when regular care falls throughOffset the cost of childcare-related expenses for employees

Upwards can help you determine whether a backup care program is a good fit for your workforce. We’re available to start the conversation at or you can set up a call with our team.

Let’s work together to add a new security blanket with backup care benefits for your employees.


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.

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