The Buisness Case for On-Site Child Care

The Case For On-Site Child Care

The business case for supporting employees with child care is compelling and some of the benefits reported by organisations which include some level of assistance to source and secure child care services include:

  • Improved ability to attract high quality employees when recruiting
  • Reduced absenteeism and tardiness
  • Higher levels of morale and company loyalty
  • Lower staff turnover and a higher retention rates
  • Better return to work rates after parental leave
  • Increased productivity
  • An enhancement in the company’s reputation and perception in the wider community

Despite these well documented advantages the number of Australian organisations offering support to working parents with regard to child care are low and research by the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, shows that only 3 per cent of the 3000 organisations that report to the Agency provide child care centres for their staff, 68 per cent offer no assistance with child care, 21 per cent provide some assistance and a further 11 per cent offered an informal or information only based service.

Australian companies stand to gain plenty of insight from pioneering American company Patagonia, which has been supporting its working families for more than 30 years.

In 1983 Patagonia became one of the first companies in the USA to recognise child care was a challenge for working parents and to address the problem by launching a corporate-sponsored on-site child care centre. The Great Pacific Child Development Centre serves employees at the company’s headquarters in Ventura California and the Truckee River Child Development Centre serves the 400 employees based at the company’s distribution hub in Reno.

Geared for children aged two months to nine years, Patagonia’s child development centres encourage risk-taking and struggle, which are in keeping with the company’s climbing-roots history. The centres promote unstructured play and emphasise outdoor learning and children spend more than half their time in care outside.

These child development centres have become an integral part of the company’s organisational culture and Patagonia reports an impressive list of tangible and intangible benefits.

For example, 91 per cent of the costs of running the child care program are directly recouped through tax benefits, employee retention and employee engagement and Patagonia reports additional benefits to its family-friendly policies including improved productivity, more women in management positions, employee loyalty and retention, and a strong workplace culture.

Additionally, as mentioned above, Patagonia sees 100 per cent of new moms return to work after taking maternity leave.

Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario says there is no question that child care benefits pay off and business leaders should take note of the Patagonia example.

“It’s true, there are financial costs to offering on-site child care, but the benefits – financial and otherwise – pay for themselves every year,” she said.

If onsite child care is an option you think would benefit your organisation you’ll need to make a strong business case to your CEO.

Making your case

A recent survey conducted by the consultancy division of US company Bright Horizons asked more than 3200 parents, with access to onsite child care, about their experiences. The findings make compelling reading:

93 per cent of mid-career respondents reported that access to onsite child care would be an important factor in their decision to leave a company, and one out of five had actually turned down or chosen not to pursue a job change because of lack of child care.

90 per cent of parents using onsite child care said that access to the service positively affected their ability to concentrate on the job and be productive.

89 per cent of respondents reported that access to onsite child care was very important in their decision to return to work for their present employer after the birth or adoption of a child. Staff turnover is a huge cost for businesses and family friendly work initiatives such as child care can have a real impact on the bottom line.


In taking the case to your manager you’ll need to make arguments which demonstrate the potential return on investment. Examples offered by industry similar companies and organisations successfully using onsite child care, will help you build a strong case. Statistics show that US employers lose $3 billion a year through child care related absences.

Another study conducted By Bowdoin College found that companies offering onsite child care saved between one half to twice what they paid to maintain the service, on top of savings incurred through reduced staff turnover and increased productivity. Information like this makes for powerful reading and should help you make your case.

Conduct a survey

Staff surveys are a very effective device for building a case for onsite child care. Canvas staff opinions (especially working parents and future parents) about the challenges they face trying to balance work/family life, whether they are likely to return after having a family, what child care they use, what back up care arrangements they have in place, how they find the cost, location and quality of care and what would make their work life easier.

Hire a consultant

Running a child care centre is outside the operational scope of most organisations and there are plenty of consultants who you can assist you assess the feasibility and practicality of developing on onsite child care facility.

Consultants can help right from the planning and design stage through to construction and management of the completed centre. Speaking to a consultant and obtaining preliminary information on costs, time frames, advantages and constraints will be time well spent.

Start small and have other options up your sleeve!

If your CEO is reluctant to further explore the idea of onsite child care present him/her with a range of other options (discussed below), such as buying places in a child care centre, partnering with a local provider to offer employees care or offering employees access to a child care referral service or search engine.

Buying places in a child care centre close to your office location is an effective alternative to an onsite facility and would be an excellent interim arrangement for companies in the formative stages of developing an onsite service.

Under this approach companies can either reserve a certain number of spaces within a pre-existing centre operated by an external service provider or form an arrangement with the service provider to have exclusive access to the centre.

Offering employees access to a child care referral service is another cost effective and straightforward way to help employees source and secure child care.

Care Corporate works with range of companies such as BNP Paribas, Optus, NRMA,  Boral, Origin and Macquarie Group to deliver child care solutions which help employees find high quality child care when and where they need it.

Care Corporate founder, Roxanne Elliott says that companies which take an active role in helping employees solve the problem of child care see the benefits in terms of increased employee retention rates, higher staff morale and boosted productivity.

“Anything your company can do to relieve an employee’s stress and anxiety surrounding child care will pay off in dividends. Even if your organisation can’t afford to build a child care centre please don’t give up, there are a range of other options available,” she said.

For more information on our comprehensive range of services visit Care Corporate.

To read more about the family friendly practices at Patagonia check out their new book Family Business: Innovative On-Site Child Care Since 1983 by Malinda Chouinard and Jennifer Ridgeway.