With the number of working parents growing, it’s becoming increasingly crucial for employers to provide better conditions to help with Childcare.
We all know that the cost of paying a professional to look after your child is often very high and the task of finding the best one is sometimes difficult, stressful and time-consuming. So, what are the alternatives? As a working dad who has to pay childcare for two children, I have researched the idea of Workplace creches and how they could benefit both company and employee.
Companies with on-site creches for staff
Providing workplace childcare facilities is not a novel idea. During past post-war periods in the UK, many mothers needed to work, which meant that companies and factories had to provide creches for workers’ children. However, according to Dr. Laura Paterson of Oxford University, childcare provisions reduced in the late 1950s as the necessity for female workers shrank and the option of part-time and flexible working hours became more widespread.
So, what is the current situation? Although only 5% of UK companies offer on-site childcare — according to research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development — there are several success stories.
One of the most effective examples of workplace childcare is Goldman Sachs — which launched London’s first on-site creche in 2003. Since then, Goldman Sachs has rolled out this facility in its Tokyo and New York offices, and allows parents of kids between the ages of 3 months and 12 years to use it. IT company, CA Technologies, currently offers an on-site creche for its staff members (at a discounted price), as does some offices of the global firm, Prudential Financial, and Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office. Workplace childcare was also trialed by taxi firm, Addison Lee, in 2012, which saw a boost in staff retention; while many government departments also offer their employees on-site nurseries.
However, perhaps due to costs and space, many smaller companies — and those outside of major cities — don’t offer on-site workplace childcare facilities yet.
Advantages of offering creches in the workplace
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 57.6% of households had every household member aged 16 years and over in employment. Although a positive figure for the UK’s employment rate, this shows that a large number of people are facing potential childcare issues, which could be alleviated by the implementation of workplace creches.
Offering a safe and secure place where working parents can leave their children nearby during the day is a great way to take away stress, which in turn, should improve productivity and staff morale. If a company offers on-site childcare, it shows that it values its employees enough to offer an alternative childcare opportunity that makes life easier for its working parents. This creates a positive relationship between the employer and employee, and engenders a sense of loyalty that is invaluable for worker and company alike.
Better recruitment and retention rates
Poaching staff in competitive commercial industries is a job in itself, so imagine how much easier attracting high-quality workers would be if a company offered on-site childcare. Providing a workplace creche is a great benefit and incentive for a working parent. The prospect of working at a company that values home life and cares about personal needs could be the clincher when it comes to a prospective employee choosing one job offer over another. Plus, having the safety net of an on-site creche is a great reason to stay at a company, which will improve staff retention and reduce the cost and resources it takes to employ and train new staff.
Decreased levels of absenteeism and lateness
What’s more, offering on-site childcare will potentially reduce lateness and decrease time taken off to deal with childcare related problems or after having a baby. Why is this so important? The more absent days a company has, the greater the negative impact on revenue. According to a report by Oxford Economics, replacing a staff member can incur a cost of around £30,000 per employee due to lost output while a new worker gets to grips with the job and the logistical cost of recruiting someone new. With a growing number of working parents, it’s vital that businesses: help parents return to work quicker after maternity/paternity leave, reduce days they must take off to deal with childcare problems, and prevent employees from leaving for a more flexible job elsewhere. Also, if a staff member has to take time out of work to care for a child, this puts additional strain on the rest of the workforce, which could result in overall reduced productivity.
For many working parents, leaving a child for a full working day is a difficult experience. Workplace childcare facilities will work to lessen parent-child separation anxiety, thereby improving their mood and helping with concentration at work.
Also, considering that workplace nurseries are exempt for PAYE tax and National Insurance, there are clearly many fiscal and personal reasons to consider workplace creches.
Barriers for companies looking to implement workplace creches
Despite the advantages of workplace creches, most companies don’t have them. This is potentially due to the obstacles a business must overcome to set up this staff perk.
Ofstead accreditation for an on-site creche often takes over three months and carries a price tag of hundreds of pounds. Additionally, businesses must then endure multiple inspections throughout the year and pay for an architect or designer to create a child-friendly environment — and there aren’t many who specialise in designing childcare facilities in the first place.
With a nationwide shortage of trained childcare professionals (according to Save the Children) to add to the difficulty of implementing workplace childcare, it’s unsurprising that many companies are unable to offer it.
Alternatives to workplace creches
Overall, some companies might be apprehensive when it comes to starting an in-office creche due to the fear that it might be a disruption to the workplace. So, what are the other options to help working parents?
Companies could offer to sponsor a local daycare centre that its staff can then use to look after their children during the day. This will be less costly than building one in an office, but still shows that the company cares about the personal needs of its staff.
If it has the funds or if it joins with other companies that wish to offer its staff childcare, perhaps an employer could even start-up a childcare centre away from the workplace? This is an excellent idea if the main issue is space or safety.
Alternatively, companies can allow staff to work from home on certain days or offer to find last-minute childcare for any employee whose childcare plans have fallen through unexpectedly.
What if there’s a problem in the childcare facility that causes friction between employees? Will this facility simply be a distraction to working parents? Businesses must research the issue thoroughly and ask its staff directly how they feel about the idea in order to make sure implementing this facility is cost-effective, worthwhile and right for the type of business.
This article was researched and created in partnership with Babythingz, a leading UK supplier of cosytoes and footmuffs for prams, buggies and pushchairs.