Employees are seeking employer-sponsored childcare benefits like childcare assistance, backup care, and childcare stipends from their organizations.

What 5 Benefits Do Employees Care About the Most?

You’re tasked with deciding employee benefits for your organization. So where to begin?

Which benefits do employees want most? Health? Dental? Vision? Sure, those basics are needed, but what about less common benefits such as childcare or mental health assistance? Workers now seek additional support from their employers, including:

  1. Work-from-home options: For many knowledge, workers, hybrid and fully remote jobs have seen a sharp rise in recent years. First due mainly to the pandemic, this trend now continues because organizations are finding that they can save on office overhead while their remote workforce remains as productive, if not moreso, than when everyone was working in person. Employees increasingly seek out and prefer work-from-home options to increase their daily flexibility and cut out those mind-numbing commutes.
  2. Mental health programs: Employers and employees alike have a vested interest in avoiding stress, anxiety, and burnout. There are multiple strategies to prevent these issues, from providing sleep and wellness apps, mindfulness training and work-life services to evidence-based therapy. Whichever form it takes and is offered, comprehensive employer-sponsored mental health programs are a popular method of supporting employees’ all-around health.
  3. Employee childcare benefits: Working parents need to find quality, affordable childcare to be successful in their roles. Employers can provide invaluable childcare benefits programs that help employees with their childcare needs. These programs assist working families with everything from access to affordability as well as securing backup, or emergency, childcare. With reliable childcare in place, employees miss fewer days of work, report higher job satisfaction, and are more productive at their jobs.
  4. Physical health programs: Similar to mental health programs, for many workers and their employers, staying healthy and productive are priorities. Physical health programs may take many forms, from an on-site workout center to a gym reimbursement or nutrition education. The idea is for employees to be incentivized to make healthy choices, including exercise.
  5. Flexible (or unlimited) PTO: Traditionally, companies offered a set amount of sick days and vacation days. Now commonly referred to as PTO, or Paid Time Off, some employers still separate out a certain amount to designate as sick days. Many employees have experienced more flexible PTO policies at other jobs, however, including some with unlimited PTO. Unsurprisingly, flexible or unlimited PTO is high atop the list of benefits that workers want the most.

As an HR leader, you know better than most how complex and nuanced these employee benefits decisions can be. Internally, you understand how much work went into fighting for that particular benefit program.

We could discuss the virtues of mental health programs, work-from-home options, flexible or unlimited PTO, and physical health programs at length, however, let’s focus on one of the most sought-after options: employee childcare benefits.

Employees and businesses stand to gain from employer-sponsored childcare benefits, with improved productivity, better retention, and reduced absenteeism.

Childcare benefits for employees were gaining momentum before the pandemic and demand has risen sharply over the last couple of years. With employer-sponsored childcare benefits, employees are supported and employers get a happier, more productive workforce.

What are childcare benefits, exactly? Essentially, employee childcare benefits are a type of benefit program employers can offer their employees that addresses working families’ pain points — from cost to access to convenience.

You have several different types of programs to choose from, depending on what your workforce needs. Employer-sponsored childcare benefits options include:

Upwards is here for any childcare benefits questions or comments you may have.

Impacts of employee childcare benefits

As you weigh your employee benefits options and start building the narrative of childcare benefits, keep in mind how these programs influence the workplace.

Benefit packages vary from organization to organization. When robust benefits — including childcare — are provided, there are myriad positive effects for employees.

With employee childcare benefits, workers:

  • Are able to fully commit to their roles: When working parents struggle with childcare issues at home, it can affect their work performance. It’s difficult to devote their full attention to their career. Employee childcare benefits help cross childcare off the list of working families’ concerns and allow them to focus on their roles.
  • Stay with the organization longer because they feel supported: When employers support employees with care benefits like employer-sponsored childcare, they feel more supported and typically work longer at the organization.
  • Have happier, healthier families: The reality is that families who struggle with childcare issues are also more likely to deal with other mental and physical challenges as well. Supporting working parents with employee childcare benefits helps foster healthier, happier families in the long run.

What happens when employers don’t offer childcare benefits?

As positive as having employer-sponsored childcare benefits is for employees, the inverse is also true for organizations that are not offering these programs to their workforce.

When childcare benefits for employees are not provided, the fiscal and personnel impacts for employers are substantial. Consider:

  • Annual turnover and replacement costs: Hiring and recruitment can be challenging in the best of times. Employers are facing increased pressures to onboard, retain, and promote the right talent in a tight labor market amid fallout from the Great Resignation. Replacing employees is expensive, underlining the importance of reducing turnover and increasing competitive recruitment with the type of benefits workers want — including employee childcare benefits.
  • Absenteeism and presenteeism: Without proper childcare, working parents may be either absent from work entirely (or present but far less productive due to distractions). This is why absenteeism is a primary concern of employers and an issue that is addressed by offering comprehensive childcare benefits for employees.
  • Lost productivity: Over half of working parents report being distracted at their jobs because of childcare issues. This daily distraction adds up, resulting in a whopping cost to U.S. companies of $550 billion per year in lost productivity.
  • The total cost of childcare benefits + ROI: Every organization is different, but employee childcare benefits can work for any employer. Based on a workforce of 13,000 employees with an average organizational salary of $55,000, the total cost of childcare benefits for employees can be $924,300.00 for one year. The total annual savings, however, works out to be $9,749,178.16, for a significant ROI of 955%.

Employees and job candidates are looking for flexible benefit options, like employer childcare benefits to help make childcare more affordable and accessible.

How to offer childcare benefits for employees

Finding the right employee childcare benefits program for your workforce will set your organization up for success.

The good news is getting started with employee childcare benefits is not as complex as it may seem at first glance. Assessing the needs of your working parents is a great place to start. You’ll also want to determine where employees are located and where care is needed.

The preferred care setting and selecting the right childcare network are your next steps in offering childcare benefits for employees. Do your working families prefer a large childcare center or smaller, home daycare setting with a caregiver providing childcare from their home? Or do your employees want nannies and babysitters watching their kiddos in their own home?

The type of support needed is another decision in finalizing employee childcare benefits, with program offerings ranging from childcare stipends to backup care and childcare assistance.

All signs point to childcare benefits

Employees are increasingly demanding family and care considerations like childcare assistance from their employers. And organizations are realizing the very real costs of sticking with the status quo — along with the ROI of adding an employee childcare benefits program.

Upwards is a leading provider of childcare benefits for employees, working with employers around the country to support their unique workforce. Start the childcare benefits conversation at benefits@upwards.com.

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

As you complete your due diligence on any new employee benefits offerings, we can help you see the full picture for employer-sponsored childcare benefits. It’s quite clear that childcare is not just another benefit.


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