Why child care benefits are a no-brainer for business
Research shows that a lack of high quality and cost effective child care is a major stumbling block for women considering a return to work after having a child.
In response to this problem a small but growing number of large Australian companies and organisations have started supplying onsite child care or supporting their employees search for care through the provision of referral services or by buying child care places.
However numbers are still low, research by the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), 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.
These figures are surprising given the strong business case which can be made in favour of supporting employees in their efforts to secure child care.
Some of the benefits reported by employers who offer child care as part of their employee package 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
Melbourne biopharmaceuticals company CSL was recently recognised as one of Australia’s most outstanding equal opportunity employers by the Federal Government after setting up a $4.8 million dollar onsite child care centre at its corporate headquarters in Parkville Victoria.
According to the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of CSL, Dr Brian McNamee, the child care centre was opened in September 2011 after an internal review revealed that CSL employees weren’t returning to work after having a baby due to a lack of available child care.
“A 2006 survey of staff found that 63 per cent of the 107 employees who had taken maternity leave in the previous five years were no longer with CSL. This was a concerning trend for CSL because females makes up a significant proportion of employees, professional staff and future talent,” he said.
“Talent is always in limited supply and CSL cannot afford to lose well-educated and trained employees who want to work but whose choice is impacted by a lack of child care.”
“The decision to provide a work-based child care service will assist us to attract and retain talented employees and to foster a positive and inclusive workplace. It makes good business sense, but also demonstrates that CSL lives and breathes our commitment to diversity and equal opportunity,” said Dr McNamee.
Other large companies which offer onsite child care as part of their employee package include Optus, which has had onsite child care available since 2005 and QANTAS which offers access to three ‘Joey Clubs’ managed by KU Children’s Services in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
If onsite child care is an option you think would benefit your company you’ll need to make a strong business case to your CEO as building a $4.8 million centre, like CSL did, is not within the financial reaches of every organisation!
Making Your Case
A recent survey conducted by the consultancy division of Bright Horizons (USA) (www.Brighthorizons.com) interviewed 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 percent 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 percent 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. Canvass 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.
For a number of years now the ANZ bank has offered employees access to child care centres operated by a major Australian child care provider in Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.
ANZ Chief executive Mike Smith said in a statement that providing child care increases the likelihood of women returning to work after having a child.
“Improved access to affordable child care is an important factor in a parent’s decision to return to the workforce. These measures are intended to have an immediate impact on our ability to retain talented women and over time help increase the number of senior women at ANZ,” he said.
Offering employees access to a child care benefit is another cost effective and straightforward way to help employees source and secure child care. Care Corporate works with range of companies such as Optus, Thales, NRMA, Coles, Boral, Origin and Macquarie Group to deliver child care solutions which help employees find high quality child care when and where they need it.
CareforKids.com.au and 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 services such as Child Care Vacancy Alert Pro which delivers tailored, real time information on child care vacancies to your employee’s inbox and is included in our Corporate Child Care Program click here.
This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in May 2012