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Keep parents at work with backup child care benefit

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in Human Resources

If too many of your employees are using their leave to stay home with sick children, it might be time to add back-up child care to your menu of benefits.

About 14% of businesses offer the benefit, which was created to help parents when their regular child care arrangements fall through.

One shift in the trend: Backup care services are fielding more requests from employees who care for grandparents, elderly parents or ill spouses.

According to work/life vendor Workplace Options, about 90% of employees would use the benefit if their organizations offered it. It notes that 59% of employees or their spouses missed three to 10 days of work last year because of problems with child care or elder care.

How do backup child care perks work? A parent whose child is too sick to go to day care or whose regular care arrangements fall though—say, on a day when snow closes schools but not offices—calls the backup service. It sends a baby sitter or home-health aide to the employee’s house for the day. Most companies pay for a limited number of days and allow employees to use the service for a fee once that limit is met.

Baxter Healthcare, for example, pays 75% of the backup caregiver’s hourly rate—around $20 in the Chicago area—
for 100 hours of care. The company pays 25% for the second 200 hours.

The benefit: Organizations that offer this perk find that employees miss fewer days of work because of child care problems.

Here are four issues to consider before you sign on with a backup care provider:

1. The benefit appeals most to employees with small children or elderly parents. If your organization has a lot of 20- and 30-something employees, or a growing number of baby boomers, this perk might be popular.

2. For some, backup care is more valuable than on-site child care because many parents prefer to use day care centers near their homes.

3. Not all parents will use the service. When Ohio-based Longaberger added a sick child care benefit, parents balked, saying they were offended that the company expected them to come to work when their children were ill.

4. To calculate the potential return on investment for backup child care, multiply the number of hours of work parents missed because of child care breakdowns by the average hourly wage of your employees, and subtract what you pay per hour for the baby sitters.

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