Having your child at a day care at your workplace might seem like an ideal situation. However, on-site day care brings both advantages and disadvantages for employers and employees. The advantages and disadvantages are intangible and tangible, though providing metrics for actual costs, liability and sustainability can truly measure the benefits and the downside to this employee benefit. Disadvantages for employees may include prohibitive costs, even with an employer subsidy, and the uncertainty as to whether the day care provided meets their children's educational and socialization needs.
Companies that provide on-site child care may have a better chance of increasing their pools of qualified applicants. Some job seekers base their employment preferences on the types of benefits an employer offers and, in particular, on-site child care. A study from Simmons College Graduate School of Management found that 93 percent of parents report that having a child care facility at the workplace weighs into their decision about accepting a job offer and 42 percent of employees selected the employer they're with based, in part, on the benefit of having on-site child care. "Fortune" magazine's 2011 list of "100 Best Companies to Work For" identifies more than 25 employers out of its top 100 who offer on-site child care benefits, which could be one of the reasons why those companies are considered the best to work for.
Employers have unforeseen liability for child care centers they manage on their premises. The licensing requirements and employer sponsorship for licensed professionals can be difficult to manage. Additionally, if liability issues arise, employees are likely to blame both the employer as well as the child care worker. This is a sure way to destroy the employer-employee relationship.
Advantage: Employee Satisfaction
The obligations for working parents can be less stressful when they know their children are nearby. The travel time they spend dropping off and picking up children from another child care facility can be cut drastically, and enrolling their children at an on-site child care center gives parents more time each morning and afternoon with their children. Employees whose personal obligations cause less stress usually exhibit signs of greater job satisfaction. Additionally, employees who use this benefit appreciate the convenience and value of on-site child care.
Disadvantage: Benefits Knowledge
Employers who offer on-site child care must have someone on their human resources staff who understands the implications of this employee benefit. They don't have to be a child care or child development expert; however, they should have working knowledge of the types of challenges on-site day care poses for both employers and employees. For example, an in-house benefits specialist whose competencies include tax matters related to the administration of dependent care accounts is ideal for this role. Finding someone with specialized knowledge handling on-site child care benefits may be difficult.
Advantage: Reduced Absenteeism
Employers often hear child care as the reason many employees can't make it to work. Their child care arrangements fell through or they have a sick child who can't go to his regular day care facility. Although on-site child care centers may have some of the same rules concerning sick children and contagious illnesses, parents with unreliable child care providers benefit tremendously from an on-site provider. Reducing the incidence of employee absences saves employers millions of dollars every year.
On-site child care is certainly convenient and employees who take advantage of employer-sponsored child care benefits in the workplace usually determine whether it's cost effective by comparing the on-site child care to other child care providers. The reality is that on-site child care can be expensive. The higher costs can be attributed to the simple fact that companies that are not in the business of providing day care services as a part of their routine services have to outsource that function. Setting up a child care facility can be expensive for many employers, especially when they consider factors such as costs to build a separate facility, hire employees with child development expertise and monitor insurance costs. The only way to sustain on-site child care is to pass along some of the costs to employees.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition, she is a certified facilitator for the Center for Creative Leadership Benchmarks 360 Assessment Suite, and is a Logical Operations Modern Classroom Certified Trainer . Ruth resides in North Carolina and works from her office in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.