More businesses seek family-friendly policies to attract and keep working parents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that childcare is considered affordable when it costs families no more than 7% of their household income

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The rising cost of childcare is forcing many working parents to make tough choices.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that childcare is considered affordable when it costs families no more than 7% of their household income. However, a national database shows they take up an average of 8% to 19% of a family's annual income.

NBC 5 learned more about a national push to get more employers to support working parents better. The effort started right here in North Texas

What started as an idea for a new conference area at manufacturing company Sigma Pro took a turn.

"We had clients on site we could, you know, really knock their socks off with a pretty conference room," said President & CEO Vivian Allen. "We asked this question what would really matter to our employees."

Allen's team surveyed workers.

"I knew for a fact that there were a lot of young families and the struggle to find childcare in this area especially affordable childcare," she said.

So they brought childcare to them. Instead of a conference room, the company created a licensed childcare center on site, just two minutes from employee Duyen Ngo's office.

'Whenever something happened, he needed me, or like he got sick, I can just be here right there," Ngo said. "I don't think I ever heard of a workplace where they care enough to think about your family, your kids, so I feel really appreciated."

The move earned Ngo's gratitude, an award for small business innovation, and the distinction of being named among the Best Places for Working Parents in 2020.

NBC 5 Anchor Brittney Johnson sat down with the women who created Best Place for Working Parents.

"At the forefront, just the reality of who our workforce is has changed drastically. Most parents are working parents, right? That means they have a full-time job, which means the response of the workforce has to look different." said Sadie Funk, national director for Best Place for Working Parents.

About 10 years ago, Funk and Sara Redington created the Best Place for Working Parents Network, which they continue to lead today. In the beginning, they called on local leaders in business healthcare, higher ed, and philanthropy to develop a whole-community approach to the future of education and economic development in Fort Worth. It's the 12th largest city in the nation with the second-highest share of families with children.

"We paired it down with the research to just the top 10 policies that have research to prove they benefit working parents, but also businesses bottom line," Funk said.

The list of policies includes on-site or backup childcare, company-paid healthcare coverage, and remote work, which many workers have been demanding even more since the pandemic.

"Businesses are losing $23 billion a year in lost productivity costs due to childcare challenges faced by their workforce. This is a real issue," said Sara Redington, chief philanthropy officer for the Miles Foundation.

Best Places for Working Parents works to spread the message that family-friendly policies prevent companies from losing people and profits. And it's building momentum across the country. At last count. As of June 2024, they'd expanded to 17 regions nationwide, highlighting innovators and showing companies of all sizes making small and large investments that are paying off.

They shared several examples, including Bell. The company has an on-site health clinic at its Fort Worth headquarters staffed with doctors and nurses and a pharmacy for employees and their families.

"Varghese Summersett, a small law firm, they transformed their entire office into a nursery. So, they have a crib and walkers and jumpers for babies of their parents that joined the team. They provide an Instacart membership for new parents. These are creative things that are low cost for businesses that actually really are impactful for those employees, and particularly for women," Redington said.

They cite research showing that businesses that provide childcare see absences decrease by 30% (Bridgecare). Employees who work from home increase their performance by 13% (Werk.Co).

Funk and Reddington said it's proof that workers are more likely to stay and take care of business when they feel their companies are taking care of them.

"Oh God, it's been so worth it," said Allen.

"I've never considered leaving. It really shows that the management cares about the employees," said Ngo.

Another example of companies opting for more family-friendly policies is a program at Bank of Texas that offers to help pay for tutoring and childcare assistance for employees who earn less than $70,000.

Best Place for Working Parents offers an online assessment to determine whether your company qualifies for the designation and to help identify areas of opportunity. You can find it here.

Another company acquired Sigma Pro's plant and operations; at last check, they were discussing the future of the childcare center.

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