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How Companies Can Help Solve the Summer Child Care Crunch
Summer camp spots are elusive. Here's what to do.
Editor’s note: As Mother Honestly continues our transition into MH WorkLife, a fintech company providing care infrastructure and a range of work-life benefits to employers and their employees, our content will reflect this exciting change. Don’t worry. We will always stay laser focused on supporting caregivers, but we also plan to cover ways *employers* can support caregivers, too. Look for this solutions-focused content for companies in your inbox twice a month.
It’s that time of year. Yes, it’s the dead of winter, and we’re all a bit sluggish from the holidays. But it’s also the time of year when exhausted working parents crack open their laptops and furiously refresh their browser, hoping to snag an elusive spot at a summer camp for their kids.
The child care sector is finally starting to show signs of job growth, but there are still far fewer workers than are needed. Without enough counselors and caregivers, camps and child care centers must reduce their enrollments, or hours, or both.
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It wasn’t easy to snag a spot at an affordable, full-day program before the pandemic. Now, it feels impossible.
The crisis needs a big fix (Congress, we’re looking at you), but in the meantime, employers can step in to support parents. Here are a few innovative ways companies are helping parent employees manage the summer care crunch:
OFFER FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES
Parents need to be able to choose where they work, but also, to some degree, when they work.
“There are a few ways we advise leaders to actually embrace schedule flexibility,” says Sheela Subramanian, co-author of How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams To Do The Best Work of Their Lives and vice president at Slack’s Future Forum. “One is defining core team work hours—the time the team works synchronously and schedules meetings with each other. On my team, for example, our core hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but outside of those hours, we can do our focus work whenever it works best for us.”
The schedule, she adds, allows parents to pick up their kids from school or camp, which often ends at 2 or 3 p.m.
OFFER FLEXIBLE CARE
Some parents prefer full-day care at a camp or child care center. Some prefer an in-home, part-time babysitter. Some might need a mix of the two.
Savvy employers are aware that one-size-fits-all solutions to child care, such as on-site care at specific locations, no longer meet the needs of a diverse pool of employees. A Care.com study found that employers increasingly favor flexible child care benefits (61%) over on-site care.
“Our report also indicates that this is a trend that will stick, not a fad,” Ralph Bershefsky, Head of Global Account Management for Care.com for Business, told Staffing.com. “With people working remotely and hours being more fluid, traditional child care solutions are too rigid. Working parents need the ability to adjust their child care to meet their changing lifestyles. The good news is more employers understand that now and are stepping up to make it possible.”
Some employers, like Liberty Mutual, are now offering memberships and stipends at sites like Care.com, which allows parents to select the provider they prefer. Others, including theSkimm and B2B marketplace Order, are offering subsidies to help cover the cost of care at Vivvi, a child care provider that offers in-home care as well as on-campus care at locations in New York City.
The most flexible benefit of all? Cash that parents can choose to spend on care as they need it. That’s the idea behind the Work-Life Wallet, which we launched at the end of 2022. The Work-Life wallet allows employees to access support for an array of needs, including child care, elder care, pet care, self care, household chores and more. Employees link their debit card or bank account, and the MH team verifies work-life expenses and provides reimbursement. Employers simply decide how much to reimburse per employee, starting at $500 annually. They also gain access to macro-level insights about where their employees are spending cash (Elder care? Household help?), which can help them identify where pain points exist for their workers.
“Parents and caregivers can use their wallet funds to pay for summer camp right now and hold their spot, while other employees can use it to start an adoption or fertility process, and so on,” explains our CEO, Blessing Adesiyan. “It's really about removing the guesswork around administering employee benefits, and instead fostering equity and inclusivity for all.”
GET THE WORK-LIFE WALLET:
Stop wasting money. Redirect cash from ineffective EAP programs and directly empower your employees to meet their unique work-life needs. With Mother Honestly’s NEW work-life wallet, employees can access support for an array of work-life needs, including child care, elder care, pet care, self care, household chores and more. Employees link their debit card or bank account, and we screen and qualify work-life related expenses for reimbursement within seconds. Learn how your company can support caregivers with our Work-Life Wallet!
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Parents are missing work at pandemic-era rates. The number of employed people in the U.S. missing work right now due to child care challenges is at the same level it reached in fall 2020, during the heights of the Coronavirus pandemic. That’s based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by Quartz.