Employer-funded childcare has become an increasingly popular and valued benefit for working parents. Employees’ childcare arrangements, however, can fall apart suddenly and without warning, for example, if a childminder or nanny is taken sick, or the child is too ill to attend nursery.
Employers can help by offering back-up emergency childcare options. These include simply providing employees with contact details for alternative care arrangements via a helpline or website paid for by the organisation or a service that offers staff details of emergency childcare in their area, which is offered through an employee assistance programme.
Employers can also offer immediate access to pre-paid nursery places at an in-house facility or at a local nursery with reserved emergency places. This eliminates the need for staff to take unplanned last-minute leave, or even take time off as unauthorised sickness absence.
Alternatively, employers can provide staff with access to a co-ordinator who is able to source emergency care provision for staff. This can either be done in-house or through a third-party provider such as Emergency Childcare, part of the My Family Care group, which works with organisations to provide employees with back-up childcare through a national database of nurseries, nannies and childminders Janie Robins, sales and marketing manager at Emergency Childcare, says: “For larger corporate clients, we set up a bespoke website and register their employees, who can then go online to access back-up care when they need it, with as little as two hours’ notice. There is a set-up and management fee, but the main cost is the service usage, and hourly rates for emergency care may be slightly higher than normal. Employers have the choice of subsidising a set number of emergency cover days, or pay all the usage costs and offer it to them staff for free.”
Just how much employers will pay towards the cost of providing emergency childcare for staff will depend on the sector they operate in and the available budget. Some organisations will cover the full cost of an emergency nursery place, while others will simply pay for access to a search facility.
According to Stephen Kramer, managing director, Europe at Bright Horizons, present trends suggest employers are subsidising the benefit to a greater extent. “The value of emergency childcare as a benefit lies in the fact that it is a real solution for people, as opposed to being just a way of saving them money,” he explains.
Bright Horizons has extended its emergency childcare provision to include care for children up to the age of 12 years, so emergencies outside of school hours for older children are also covered for working parents.
The return on investment on offering emergency childcare as a benefit can be reasonably high once calculated against the costs associated with staff absence EB For more on childcare, visit: product file: emergency childcare What is emergency childcare? This is a service provided to parents who need to source emergency nursery places, nannies and childminders because their regular childcare is unavailable.
Where can employers get more information? Organisations such as the Daycare Trust, (www.daycaretrust.org.uk), the National Day Nurseries Association (www.ndna.org.uk) and Childcare Link (www.childcarelink.gov.uk) can provide further information.
The main providers of emergency childcare in the market include: Accor Services; Allsave; Bright Horizons; Busy Bees; Grass Roots; My Family Care; Sodexo