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Guest op-ed: Childcare solutions for Utah employers

By Susan Madsen - Special to the Daily Herald | Dec 30, 2021

Courtesy photo

Susan Madsen, director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

The topic of child care impacts nearly all Utah families in some way, and because of this more and more Utah employers — whether business, government, education or community — are thinking about ways to assist. In fact, because of Utah’s talent storage, it is being included more often in strategic discussions for organizational leaders. Research has now found that child care support encourages diversity and is a valuable recruitment and retention tool (use this tool to calculate how much employee turnover costs your business).

The Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) team just published a document with some ideas for employers to consider around this topic. During the past few years, I’ve had many business leaders tell me that they are nervous to offer “child care benefits,” because they don’t want to open an onsite child care facility. For some employers, this could be the answer, but there are many other types of child care benefits that could be offered. It isn’t “all or nothing!”

Here is a list of 10 ideas for employers — from less to more resource-intensive options — that can be used to support working parents:

  1. Be a child care policy champion by using your influence and voice to advocate for family-friendly policy in Utah.
  2. Offer flexible schedules so parents can work around school and activities.
  3. Implement remote work/telecommuting options so parents can better manage work-life.
  4. Provide flex spending accounts. A section 125 plan or cafeteria-style benefits plan allows employees to choose the benefits they need at different points in their lives.
  5. Subsidize the cost of child care for the employees’ care arrangement of choice.
  6. Offer a voucher system that contracts with child care providers or centers in the community for services for their employees. This can include full-time care, part-time care, backup care or summer care.
  7. Utilize various federal tax incentives. These can include Employer’s Child Care Assistance Credit, Employer-Provided Child Care Credit, exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance from an employee’s gross income, and various incentives for employer-provided child care (see this one-pager for more details).
  8. Partner with organizations like Wonderschool, which offers employee assistance services, creates networks of child care programs, offers tuition support plans and can recruit and train home care providers to serve your employees.
  9. Provide consortium-style child care where near-site businesses partner to subsidize a local child care provider as well as child care slots for their employees from that provider.
  10. Offer on-site child care.

In addition, for more resources, research and guidance, check out the Office of Child Care at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the U.S. Chamber Foundation Guide and the UWLP’s Working Parent Childcare Resources handout, as well as the Childcare Toolkit.

The Utah economy can continue to grow, and Utah families can better thrive if employers carefully consider the full continuum of child care benefits — and other family-friendly policies and benefits as well — to attract, retain and support their employees. Utah is elevated when employers and employees work together to make our state great for all.

Susan R. Madsen is the Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.


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