October 26, 2023
Put simply, backup child care is the child care that comes into play when someone’s regular, primary care solution falls through. Think about your full-time nanny calling in sick, your daycare closing for the holidays, or the grandparents who pitch in a couple days going out-of-state for vacation. Families are often put in a bind when their regular carefall through and need to scramble to fill the gap.
But that’s not all…
When it comes to child care, the focus is usually on fixed, “full time” child care solutions like day care, preschool, and K12 enrollment. However, “full time” child care hours are often shorter than the typical 8 hours expected of a full-time working adult. Depending on the age of the child, schools and daycare hours of instruction can vary from 2.5 hours for kindergarten to 6 to 7 hours for older kids. When the average work day is 8 hours plus padding for commute time, parents must stitch together after care and backup care in addition to their fixed care for every day care.
Not to mention, the average US school offers 36 weeks of education while the average employee is expected to work 48 to 50 weeks out of the year. That leaves a gap of 12 to 14 weeks where working parents have no fixed child care solution.
The above is just the baseline and doesn’t account for sick days, school closures due to government holidays or staff professional development and other ad hoc occasions in which child care is not available on short notice. Backup care is often seen as an afterthought when in reality it is crucial to ensure working parents can show up to work reliably.
The importance of backup child care was made acute during the pandemic when child care options dried up and what child care options remained had regular closures (often due to COVID-19 exposures) that would lead to hair-on-fire experiences among working parents scrambling to find last-minute child care while also juggling the demands of their work.
Backup care options are limited on the market. They are usually offered by large, incumbent childcare network providers with many brick and mortar locations, who contract with large employers as an employee benefit.
Those employed at smaller companies often don’t receive the benefit of backup child care. This leaves many families struggling to cobble up some child care options through their personal networks; contacting friends and family, or finding solutions through online sitter platforms which require membership subscription fees just to look.
Meanwhile, the majority of child care providers are small businesses who don’t have the infrastructure to easily set up backup child care even if they wanted to, so parents are limited in their ability even to conduct research among local daycares to inquire about drop-in/backup care, oftentimes leaving voicemails for day-of care only to be called back, if at all, days later.
This leaves an opportunity for improving the backup care service and industry as a whole to better service working parents and their employers.
Benefits of Backup Care
There are many benefits to backup care.
It’s what employees want
According to The 2023 Harris Poll Parent Confidence Report, “After healthcare, child care is the #1 benefit that’s keeping parents at their current job, even above PTO.” In a recent survey, it was found that more than half of employees with children are considering changing their jobs to get better child care benefits.
Supporting an employee’s child care needs is simply good for business and in order to do that effectively, supporting reliable backup care is essential.
Boost productivity among employees
With backup care in place, employees will have peace of mind, knowing they have a care solution in place if their primary care falls through. This takes a huge mental load off of working parents who can channel their energy into being more present and engaged at work, boosting productivity and helping achieve team and company goals more effectively.
Promotes diversity in the workplace
When primary care falls through, the mother is often saddled with the child care responsibilities. In Deloitte, Women@Work 2023 Report, nearly half of the women polled stated that they were primarily responsible for domestic tasks such as cleaning or caring for dependents.
Providing backup care benefits will help women and women of color join, stay and thrive in the workforce.
Why Employers Should Offer Backup Care
It has been well documented how lack of child care costs the US economy $122B annually. That’s billion with a B! According to this report conducted by ReadyNation, “Almost two-thirds of parents of infants and toddlers facing child care struggles reported being late for work or leaving work early, and more than half reported being distracted at work or missing full days of work.”
As a result of child care challenges, the report states that “families lose $78 billion per year in forgone earnings and job search expenses. Meanwhile, productivity problems cause employers to lose $23 billion annually due to child care challenges faced by their workforce. Taxpayers, in turn, lose $21 billion each year in lower federal and state/local tax revenue.”
Fixed child care must be coupled with backup care in order for families to experience reliable and dependable, full-coverage care for their children. This is where companies can step up to support their employees which in turn will boost their own businesses. Support for working families and their dependent care needs is essential for a thriving business and economy.