America is in a childcare crisis.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the childcare sector has lost over 100,000 workers.¹ The ripple effect in corporate America is actually more than a ripple—it’s whitecaps on the sea.
About 40 percent of U.S. families have children.² Over 90 percent of those households with kids have a parent who is employed—and over 60 percent have two working parents.³
However, in a sobering report, only 6 percent of U.S. companies offer significant, comprehensive childcare benefits, such as on-site facilities.⁴ While some companies offer Dependent Care FSA, for example, these are not comprehensive—and don’t significantly decrease costs. Depending on where employees live, the cost of daycare averages over $10,000 a year per child⁵—and that number climbs in areas like New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.
Why the Crisis Now?
As we all know the COVID pandemic exposed many issues—from the difficulties (and at times downright verbal abuse) shown people in service industries like restaurants and supermarkets to the low wages of teachers and others on the front line of the pandemic, to first responders and healthcare professionals being stretched to their limits. That is all aside from the risks many of them took in order to provide services in a global pandemic and their own fears for their families and loved ones.
As wages rose to compete for workers, daycare employees discovered they could make more stocking shelves than caring for children. While we have all heard of the Great Resignation, it was really, in my opinion, the Great Reprioritization.
What Can Companies Do?
If employees do not have confidence in their children’s care, they cannot do their best for you. If there are no affordable options, they may be forced to leave the workforce entirely.
Here are some suggestions on ways companies can help working parents:
- Flexibility. First on the list is flexibility. This might include compressed work weeks, telework, or hybrid work (something we obviously saw a big increase in during the COVID crisis). However, flexibility might include allowing parents to take two hours of flex time in order to take a child to the doctor—instead of insisting the parents take a half-or full-day off for hours they may not need and would prefer to bank.⁶
- Child care referral services and subsidies (including new models of care). Losing your talent because they cannot find safe and affordable child care is not helping your bottom line—or your employees’ contentment. Offering referral services and subsidies can help. In addition, consider that post-pandemic, daycare centers are closing. It’s time to examine allowing licensed providers to come into the homes of working parents (especially in these hybrid and work-from-home times).
- Do not encourage a “come to work at all costs” mentality. Workplace sickness spreads when people who are legitimately sick come to the workplace because they are afraid for their jobs or performance. Ideally, enough sick leave and personal time can discourage Typhoid May and Plague Paul from coming into the office.
- Support the mental health of parents—and all employees. The pandemic laid bare that some of us are juggling much too much. Parents are often pulled in different directions (a child with a fever who can’t go to daycare—and needs to attend a meeting at the same time). Parents are exhausted—and work-life balance can seem unattainable. Making sure people feel supported and ensuring people can access services that help with stress—whether mental health counselors or on-site yoga or rest areas—will help all feel valued.
- Consider on-site care partnerships. Consider these partnerships with excellent daycare companies.
If 50 percent of the workforce are parents—it is to a company’s peril if they do not try to help address this real shortage and conundrum of today’s working families.
Written by John W. Mitchell
¹Dana Goldstein (October 13, 2022), “Why You Can’t Find Childcare: 100,000 Workers Are Missing,” https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/us/child-care-worker-shortage.html, accessed January 22, 2023.
²Terri Williams (February 27, 2020), “Report: Only 6% of US Companies Offer Comprehensive Child Care Benefits,” https://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/report-only-6-of-us-companies-offer-comprehensive-child-care-benefits/business-management-services-risk-management, accessed 1/20/2023.
⁴Clutch (January 9, 2020),, “Only 6% of US Business Offer Any Child Care Benefits,” Carehttps://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/only-6-of-us-businesses-offer-any-child-care-benefits-highlighting-significant-challenges-for-working-parents-300984033.html, accessed 1/22/2023.
⁵Nicolas Vega (February 21, 2022), “The Average Cost of Child Care Is Now More than $10,000,” https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/21/average-cost-of-child-care-is-now-more-than-10000-dollars-per-year.html
⁶Kara Alaimo (January 6, 2023), “The Real Problem with Sick Leave in America,” https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/06/opinions/sick-leave-workplace-parents-alaimo/index.html, accessed January 7, 2023.