Special Needs of Parents
Here's a typical morning for a working parent: Wake up before dawn, pack lunches, prepare the diaper bag, find lost shoes, and fight traffic while eating a granola bar to drop one kid off at day care and the other at school. Arrive at work and realize that lunches are still sitting on the kitchen counter. On a good day, the toddler will not have a tantrum in the morning, and there will be no phone call from a crying child who left his homework on the kitchen table.
Whew! It's no wonder that working parents want, and need, flexible work options, but some of them simply can't do it. Their position can't be transitioned into one with alternative schedules or they can't afford to cut down to part-time work. The best thing you can do for them are the little things that will make them and their children happy, and relieve some of the stress.
Companies who make the Fortune and Working Mother lists (and some make both) proudly display this honor, and for good reason. The companies have gone above and beyond what workers in America want and need to take care of themselves while they provide for their families.
If you have enough workers who would take advantage of on-site day care, this is something to consider even if your business is small. You are unlikely to need the large day-care centers that the larger companies have, but an adequate room for on-site child care would be appreciated by many parents. The employees would pay for the service, making this another benefit to employees at no cost to you. However, you will have up-front costs to purchase the items you need to get started. If you don't have the space and would need to add on a room, this could be a major setback, but something that will repay itself in the long run, as you see employee satisfaction and productivity rise and turnover rates decline.
There are many things to consider before offering on-site day care. You will need to prepare a consent form and liability waiver for parents to sign. Your insurance company will need to be notified. Determining if the person who cares for the children will be put on payroll or be considered contract labor will need to be determined. If it's contract labor, find out if the parents will pay the provider directly or if you should pay the child-care provider. Also, look into the legal issues and employment laws in regards to payroll versus contract labor. Once you get started, parents will pay daily, weekly, or monthly for the service, and this should offset any expenses that would come out of your company's pocket.
If you do decide to provide on-site day care, have a backup plan for when the caregiver gets sick. If there are enough kids enrolled to need two or more providers, one of them getting sick could still shut the center down for the day if the child-to-adult ratio is too high. Employees with children being watched can take turns helping during the day or a person may be kept on call to come in and assist when the need arises.
Another option to help working parents is to offer a place for older kids to come after school to do their homework while they wait for their parents to get off work. This is only feasible for children who go to school nearby. A teenager from the local high school can be hired to keep an eye on everyone and help with homework.
Daycare providers often charge a set rate to provide care, whether or not the child attends every day. This is to guarantee that a spot is held for the child and is available when needed. It would not be unreasonable for your on-site day care to go this route as well. To function properly, drop-off service should be limited.
Parents also want and need the flexibility to leave work to attend parent/teacher conferences, classroom parties, awards ceremonies, and performances at school. They may want to chaperone field trips or become active in PTA events and fundraisers. You'll be known as a compassionate employer if you give them the time to do this. You're not expected to do it on company time; simply allow them to occasionally adjust their schedule or work a few hours less that week when things come up.
You may run into an issue with an employee who does not have children and feels that the working parents aren't contributing fairly because they are out when their kids are sick or miss time from work for school events. Just remind these employees that when something comes up for them, all they have to do is ask for the same privilege. They may have an elderly parent who needs a ride to the doctor, a friend who needs to be dropped off at the airport, or a cat that needs to see the veterinarian.