Employer-Supported Childcare in Action – San Diego Foundation

According to the Workforce, Childcare & Change report, 77% of parents say that finding child care in the San Diego region is a challenge. This, coupled with the high cost of care, forces many working parents to disengage from the workforce. Employers can be part of the solution when it comes to innovative, fair childcare for working families.

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s (US Chamber Foundation) briefing, Essential care for essential workerslists unique support services that employers can implement to support their staff, such as subsidies, back-up care, childcare vouchers and flexible scheduling.

Some local employers are already addressing childcare quality, access and affordability. Local nonprofit SAY San Diego provides on-site child care services for staff and the community, while YMCA of San Diego County’s Employer Supported Child Care Solutions Program partners with employers to nurture the needs of working parents by supporting them with innovative child care solutions.

In addition to local nonprofits, companies like Bank of America and Dr. Bronner’s are stepping up and offering competitive benefits to working families to address the childcare crisis.

Bank of America: Support for new parents and backup childcare

In Essential care for essential workers, the US Chamber Foundation describes three levels for employer-supported childcare:

  1. “Quick wins”, which can be working parent support and flexible scheduling
  2. “Internal investments”, including childcare vouchers, subsidies and on-site care
  3. “Community investments”, such as public advocacy and expanding community capacity and childcare provision

Backup care, designed to help employees in an emergency when child care plans fail, is considered an internal investment in child care and support for working families.

Bank of America offers 50 days of backup care for both children and adults, which is especially helpful for employees caring for elderly parents or adult children with disabilities.

This holistic approach to backup care recognizes the many intergenerational needs of working families, and addresses the needs of employees who work in-person (for example, at a branch) and do not have the option to work from home.

“I love that the bank is inclusive to support all different types of working families – with young children, with aging parents, with dependent adult children with special needs,” emphasizes Jennifer Gallagher, Senior Vice President, Market Executive for Middle Market at Bank of America.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the lives of working parents trying to balance childcare and work.

During the pandemic, Bank of America offered its employees up to $100 a day for child and adult care needs. Jennifer added that employees have used more than 4.5 million days of adult and child care services since the start of the pandemic, underscoring the high need.

With the transition back to in-person work, Bank of America is actively finding new ways to implement, adapt and change to better support flexible adult and child care for employees. Currently, employees can receive up to $275 per month per child for qualifying expenses. They also offer flexibility on who qualifies as a child care provider, allowing family members, neighbors and various community programs to qualify.

Support for working parents, and the full menu of benefits offered by Bank of America, is something Jennifer is personally familiar with, having just welcomed her first baby.

“The Bank encouraged me to take the full 16 weeks of parental leave when my child was born so that I could set an example for other employees,” shared Jennifer. “This same leave is also offered to working fathers, and employees have the flexibility to take this leave at any time during their baby’s first year.”

Dr. Bronner’s: Childcare Benefits, Subsidies & Referrals

Local soap company Dr. Bronner’s conducts annual surveys of their employees. In 2016, it emerged that childcare was a major financial burden and cause of stress for families.

Dr. Bronner’s decided to invest internally in its employees by covering half the cost of approved childcare rooms. Originally a $5,000 benefit, the company increased the match to $7,500 a year after receiving additional feedback from employees during the pandemic. Benefits include day care, nursery school, after school care and summer care, up to age 11.

The company knows that childcare is a necessity for working parents, and believes that employers can be compassionate and understanding in meeting those needs.

The benefit works well for Dr. Bronner’s and his staff. Employees come to work with peace of mind knowing their children are being cared for in a safe, high-quality childcare environment.

The company has also partnered with Tootris, an on-demand childcare agency, to help parents find the right placements for their children. Having the support of referrals to public childcare providers was invaluable.

As a working mother, Lilia Vergara, Director of Human Resources at Dr. Bronner’s, the struggle to go to school, work and care for her oldest daughter when she was young. She underlined the fact that childcare is expensive, and encourages employers to be proactive.

“If you don’t pay for this benefit, you’ll see the cost somewhere else,” she added, citing absenteeism and turnover as ways companies are affected by a lack of supportive childcare services.

Workforce, Childcare & Change

Ensuring equitable access to quality, affordable child care aligns with the San Diego Foundation Strategic Plan priority to promote equal opportunity, which includes increasing access to quality early care and education.

To learn more about what can be done to address the child care crisis in our region, view our recent webinar and learn from local and national experts about the connection between child care and labor force participation, recent polling data on the needs of working parents focused, and benefits that support working parents and the connection to workplace retention and attraction.

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