What Employers Get Wrong About Childcare (and How We Can Make It Right) — A Letter From Our CEO

Dear HR leaders:

Let’s face it, most companies in America weren’t designed to support families, especially working mothers. The system is set up to achieve a certain outcome, and making things easy on families is not it. Capital and the focus on profit are driving forces in our society, but the good news is that supporting employees with childcare boosts the bottom line.

I know many families where one parent left the workforce in order to stay at home with their children, most often mothers, simply because the high cost of childcare left very little remaining in their monthly paycheck. It’s time for systemic change, folks.

Childcare is no longer optional

Say it with me: Childcare. Is. Essential. This is a good starting place for the conversations we need to be having in the workplace and within organizations around the country. Not every employer is thinking about child care benefits or how best to support working families, but they should be. Fortunately, many employers are beginning to have these crucial childcare discussions and others are on the cusp of changing their long-held opinions about what type of benefits they should be offering their employees.

How did we get here? We’ve been on a slippery slope when it comes to childcare in America for decades, but the pandemic pushed us off that icy cliff and highlighted some uncomfortable truths. The stark realities of life in 2020 showed us just how much we rely on parents to figure it out and how little we expect from employers to provide the much-needed support we’ve been lacking. The pandemic has had innumerable cascading effects, one of which is revealing to everyone exactly how essential childcare is for working families.

What employers are missing about childcare benefits

So what common misperceptions do employers still have when it comes to childcare benefits? What are forward-thinking organizations still missing about this pressing issue?

One idea that many organizations keep getting wrong about childcare benefits is that the ability to secure reliable, high-quality, affordable child care only affects their employees’ personal lives and doesn’t actually impact the employer. This line of thinking does not match reality and worsens the current childcare crisis that families are facing while also negatively impacting the bottom line for corporations.

Adding a childcare benefit for employees is a slam dunk for both working families and the organizations managing their payroll. Unreliable (or nonexistent) childcare for parents leads to significant issues for employers, including absenteeism, retention, and low job satisfaction. Childcare benefits help organizations with these challenges while simultaneously boosting recruitment efforts.

With the average cost of replacing employees rising to an eye-opening 20% of their annual pay, employers should be making every effort to attract and retain top talent. Seriously. I’m not kidding when I say that incorporating a childcare benefit for employees can be the difference between having a successful 2022 and being forced to lay off staff or even shut your doors permanently.

What does adding childcare benefits look like?

I’ve spoken to many organizations who are interested in what adding childcare benefits will look like, but express their biggest concern, “What is this going to cost us?” Here is where I actually get to deliver the best news: it’s ridiculously attainable for organizations of all sizes!

Many employers may hesitate, thinking they can’t cover childcare costs for their entire workforce, but Upwards creates flexible programs that cover everything from full childcare subsidies to our concierge service to find employees the perfect childcare provider. Some families may be looking for a daycare, preschool, nanny, babysitter, or tutor — we have every care type covered to meet the unique needs of each family.

Seize momentum and create systemic change

So how do we continue to build on positive momentum and save the faltering childcare ship before it sinks? We need more organizations nationwide to realize the very real and immediate ROI of childcare benefits and make them possible for their working families. Employers can get started here.

It’s also incumbent on parents to educate themselves about their options and start advocating for childcare benefits from their current and prospective employers. We are all in this together and can start enacting systemic change at the community level, within our organizations, and on a national stage.

I believe that in the near future, childcare benefits will be as common as health insurance and 401(k)’s. Let’s work together and make this our new reality.

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