Finding affordable and reliable childcare has been a challenge that working women around the world face when their maternity leave is over and they are looking to rejoin the workforce. In India, finding quality childcare can be especially difficult due to a lack of government programs, legislation, and regulations mandating childcare arrangements for corporate employees. Fortunately, as more talented women in India join the work force and defy the stereotype of women confined to the roles of “wife” and “mother,” smart organizations are making childcare one of the top priorities for their employees. These companies realize that retaining trained and ambitious women is critical for building their leadership pipelines.
Although progress has been made in efforts to provide childcare in India Inc., there is much more that can be done. Catalyst India WRC recently convened a roundtable event called Childcare: What’s Trending? Understanding What Works for Different Organizations to focus on how organizations have addressed the childcare needs of their employees and to determine how to make improvements. The event in Bangalore, hosted by Northern Trust, brought together human resource leaders, compensation and benefits professionals, diversity professionals, ERG leaders, and childcare providers to share perspectives, challenges, and solutions.
Here are three main takeaways from the event.
The cost of losing talent due to the lack of efficient childcare outweighs the cost of creating childcare center(s). When considering launching a childcare program, companies must take the needs of their employees into consideration. Although many employers might believe that the creation of a childcare program is too costly, organizations will lose when parents leave their jobs and companies because they can’t find adequate childcare. In an effort to minimize the impact of setting up childcare centers or partnering with external vendors, many organizations in India share these costs with employees. This results in subsidized childcare for employees while also lowering the burden on employers, who won’t have to take care of all associated costs. As organizations grow in size and impact, they can absorb more of the share of the costs, thus enticing more parents to stay. This is especially pertinent in India Inc., with workforce demographics trending towards young employees and with most organizations employing large numbers of employees. Thus, in larger organizations especially, when 5%-10% of employees show a need for childcare it’s time to make it a priority.
When establishing a childcare program, due diligence can determine its success or failure. Early on in the process of developing childcare options for their employees, organizations should go through several steps to make sure that they are meeting the needs of their employees. This includes conducting security audits on the providers, developing a committee to lead the center, establishing a parents’ committee, creating emergency and security plans, and conducting regular, ongoing status checks. But even before that, an organization needs to decide whether it’s better to build the center within the workplace facility or offer childcare offsite. Although many people would prefer to have onsite childcare centers, organizations can run into roadblocks while trying to develop them. Since many of the facilities are often leased as opposed to owned, developers hesitate to make changes to building structures and companies leasing the premises need a strong case to get the owners to agree. If a childcare center is offsite, parents with infants and young children usually prefer that it be close to their offices, while parents with older children may prefer that it be closer to home. These are all important considerations to keep in mind. Employees must be involved in making these decisions in order for the company to see maximum utilization of the new facility.
Retaining women after they’ve had a child (or children) is a two-way street. Organizations and employees both contribute to the success of reintegration efforts. The event highlighted things that organizations can do to encourage women to return to work after having a child. Some of the things mentioned included allowing women to work flex hours, providing a telecommuting policy, giving options for part-time work and compressed schedules, and giving parents the opportunity to take a leave of absence. Companies also should focus on establishing support systems including ERGs for parents, subsidies and allowances, and emergency childcare options. For women to get ahead in the workforce, it’s also essential for them to take the time to reflect on their career goals and aspirations, be strategic about their workload, speak to their managers about their career aspirations, and become champions for work-life integration within their organizations.