The most important to the success of any business is its workforce. Regardless of size, companies thrive when they effectively engage and retain qualified staff. A stable workforce can help a business maintain a steady level of performance, particularly at a time when the working world is constantly changing.
Achieving such workforce stability has become harder than ever and too often, the problem stems from a lack of safe, affordable childcare for employees’ children.
Like so many businesses, childcare programs are struggling to find staff to care for and educate the children of working parents. While always “essential,” the childcare system has been chronically underfunded and underappreciated—and COVID made staffing even more difficult.
Providers are finding it difficult to pay the increasing minimum wage. As with all other businesses, the ability to offer health benefits and retirement are rare luxuries for childcare providers, leading to difficulties competing for workers in the labor market.
Findings from a February 2022 survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), showed that two-thirds of respondents had experienced a staffing shortage that impacted their ability to serve families, resulting in fewer children being served. More than one-third indicated that they had longer waiting lists and were unable to reopen classrooms, all because of a lack of staff.
The result? Working parents, particularly mothers, often find it extremely difficult to find the childcare they need so that they can remain in the workforce.
While advocates at the federal and state level are working to ensure that some of these issues are addressed, the pandemic has made it clear that childcare is the “workforce behind the workforce” and businesses have a stake in supporting a stronger childcare system that better meets the needs of working families.
Why Should Businesses Care about Childcare?
Childcare is a vital workforce support, making it not just a family concern but a core economic priority for workers and their employers, because:
- There is a direct link between access to quality childcare and the strength of businesses and the overall economy. A study conducted by Ready Nation reported that parents spent an average of 2 hours less per week on work due to childcare challenges, which amounts to $12.7 billion in lost productivity annually to employers across the U.S.
- Our state and nation’s economic recovery depends on affordable, accessible childcare for the workforce, more than half of whom are women.
- Unless employers can bring back or retain their working parents, particularly mothers, future recruitment efforts, as well as future economic success, will be compromised.
- Supporting the childcare needs of employees is a way to attract and maintain a stable workforce, especially now that hiring staff is difficult in many sectors
What Can Businesses Do to Support Childcare?
Few businesses have the financial bandwidth to support the costs associated with building and maintaining on-site childcare centers. This does not mean, however, that businesses can’t support the childcare needs of their existing or future employees.
Businesses can reimagine their benefits packages to include childcare offerings and support. Business policies that provide flexibility and support for working parents are key to maintaining a stable workforce and attracting new employees.
- Review your employee manuals. Are there areas that you can provide increased flexibility for working days/hours? Are you able to offer hybrid or remote work options?
- Work collaboratively with your Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (). These county-run programs provide support and services to parents and childcare providers in their jurisdictions FREE of charge and can help businesses connect with local center-based and registered programs and registered family homes that provide education and care. Simply providing information to your employees on how they can connect with a local CCR&R can help them fulfill their childcare needs. More information on CCR&Rs can be found
- Include childcare tuition assistance or reimbursements as part of your business’ benefits package to help make childcare more affordable for employees.
- Reimburse parent employees for all or a portion of their childcare costs.
- Collaborate with local childcare programs to give your employees priority space for their children, a tuition discount or to provide backup care.
- Encourage policymakers to support federal and state investments in childcare. Share personal anecdotes about the struggles of your employees to meet their childcare needs and how it impacts your business.
Like families, businesses are key stakeholders in ensuring increased investments in childcare. When workers have access to high-quality, stable, affordable childcare, their employers reap the benefits of reduced absenteeism and productivity loss, and employees will likely stay longer. The economy benefits when businesses thrive because parents can work, and the childcare industry is supported. A well-supported childcare system will help prepare children for success in school, and beyond, when it is their time to enter the workforce.
In short, regardless of size, there are many ways businesses can play an active role in supporting their employees’ needs and the childcare industry.
This Fast Fact was created in collaboration with Advocates for Children of New Jersey.