Mistakes That Make Child Care Benefit Programs Costly and Ineffective

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If you choose to provide a child care benefits program for your employees, you are already one step ahead of the competition. Your heart is in the right place. Your intentions are good. But how can you avoid the pitfalls that come with selecting the best childcare benefits plan for your organization?

Based on my team at WeeCareexperience working with thousands of employers who have been in your shoes, here are eight common mistakes to avoid when finalizing your child care benefits for employees:

1. Choose a classic program with high costs
Traditionally, child care benefits often involved a significant financial commitment on the part of employers who chose to cover some or most of their employees’ child care costs. Now there are more cost-effective options, like a child care assistance program that helps your working families find affordable, high-quality child care that fits their needs and budget. There is also full and partial employer-sponsored child care programsas well as emergency respite care to support families when their primary childcare plans change unexpectedly.

2. Choose a static childcare network
Since child care networks offer a similar service but are not the same in terms of quality or coverage, it may be helpful to think of them as mobile phone networks. One of the most important factors is making sure you have coverage near your home or workplace. Choosing a childcare network with limited capacity means it likely won’t cover all of your employees who need childcare, especially if you have a geographically dispersed employee population.

3. Thinking that your organization should cover 100% of childcare costs for each employee
While covering all childcare costs for your employees is commendable and can be an option, it is just one of the many alternatives available when selecting childcare benefits. You can subsidize a customizable amount, per month or per year, to help your working families pay for childcare with an allowance. Even if you can’t cover any of the costs, but still want to help employees access childcare, you can do so by using a childcare assistance program. This program provides your working parents with a dedicated care manager to help them 24/7 find the best care provider for their child care needs. And you can also provide families with child care support in the form of emergency child care credits.

Read more: Is integrated childcare the next trend in the office? Here are 3 things to consider

4. Choose a program that only supports your highest paid employees
The different child care benefit programs available can be tailored to your workforce. With a stipend program, you can choose to customize the monthly stipend amount based on a variety of factors, including employee seniority. While this can be a way to reward senior executives, it often ends up supporting your highest paid employees and doesn’t help the majority of your workforce, who probably need all the help they can get with child care.

5. Focus on and commit to on-site daycare
When you think of child care benefits, you might imagine an onsite daycare. It’s a way to do it, however, it can be a mistake for many reasons. On-site daycares require a large upfront investment (plus ongoing maintenance costs), can be an insurance liability, often have long waiting lists and larger classes, are usually limited to standard 9 a.m. hours to 5:00 p.m. and are only suitable for on-site staff. Hybrid or remote employees may not be well served by this solution.

6. Not tailoring the program to the needs of your staff
When considering child care benefits, it is very important to assess the needs of your employees to inform your decision making. Once you understand which types of care will be used most by your working families and will have the greatest impact, you can select the right program for their needs. Perhaps you will find that what your staff needs most is emergency care, for example.

Read more: Investing in childcare benefits creates a fairer workforce

7. Insufficient deployment and internal messaging
As with any other major benefits program, clear and effective deployment is essential. Otherwise, you risk low uptake and adoption rates by your working parents, which limits the effectiveness of the program you have invested in.

8. Assuming working families with school-age children do not need child care benefits
A mistake that some organizations still make is to assume that child care benefits are only useful for families with young children, typically infants to five years old. The truth is that many families have to find a viable child care solution for their children up to the age of 12. With most schools closing around mid-afternoon, there is a two to three hour gap between the end of school and the end of the workday that parents struggle with on a daily basis. And then there’s summer, when working parents have to manage busy summer camp registrations and make other childcare arrangements until the school year begins in the fall. The lesson is that child care benefits can be a game-changer, even for families with school-aged children.

During the important information-gathering phase and decision-making process, WeeCare can help you quickly determine how much you could save by providing employee childcare benefits.

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