Childcare as a Workplace Incentive?

Childcare as a Workplace Incentive?

Some Northeast Ohio businesses are using childcare as an incentive to attract and retain loyal employees. This is increasingly important as childcare issues contributed to the high number of open jobs following “The Great Resignation” of 2021, workers who quit their jobs because of the pandemic.

According to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), nearly half of childcare providers closed their facilities during the COVID-19 shutdowns, and 18 percent of childcare centers remain closed. Meanwhile, those that have reopened have reduced capacity. Nationally, childcare enrollment is down, to an average of 67 percent. In Ohio alone, 100 daycare centers have closed since 2018.

That puts a strain on workers with young children and thus on the U.S. economy. Lacking childcare arrangements, parents struggle to balance work-life demands. 

The Cleveland area is especially tough. The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development reported a greater scarcity of options for families in Cleveland than in the surrounding area. 

With many communities lacking high-quality early education and child care options, Georgia-based Primrose Schools is scouting Northeast Ohio for entrepreneurs to become franchise owners. Primrose has more than 450 early education and daycare centers operating across the U.S., including 34 in Ohio and seven in the Cleveland area. The schools in Greater Cleveland are located in Avon, Broadview Heights, Hudson, Solon, Strongsville, and Westlake, with a location in North Ridgeville opening soon.

Companies like Driftwood Hospitality, one of Ohio’s largest caterers and restaurant operators, whose establishments include Landerhaven as well as restaurants Cibreo, Republic, downtown concessions and more, is hoping childcare incentives will help attract workers. To make their compensation package more attractive, they’ve arranged a special rate at KinderCare Learning Center locations throughout Northeast Ohio. The new benefit is just starting for part- and full-time employees.

“We are simply living in a different world as we come out of COVID,” says Scott Kuhn, CEO and founder of Driftwood Hospitality. “The hospitality industry has been and will always be a high-stress environment, and some employees have decided there are better ways for them to provide for themselves and/or their families.”

That has meant worker attrition for the company. “For those that are passionate about people, food, and hospitality, the industry is now making changes for the better to ensure that those who love this industry can coexist with it in a way that is fulfilling and improved upon from the pre-COVID era,” he says. “We want to be leaders relative to this movement, and we feel strongly that the improvements we have made as a company will help fill some of the vacancies left in the wake of the pandemic.”

To ease the work-life conflict, Innovation Foods owner Tom Lane launched two New Adventures Early Learning & Child Development Centers in Twinsburg and Mantua. He started the centers in 2002 to provide a childcare option for his children and employees’ children. 

“My wife and I both worked near each other on the south end of Twinsburg,” he says. “We were looking at starting a family and recognized that there was no access to childcare between where we lived and where we worked. That recognition was the spark that started it all.”

Today, he uses childcare incentives to attract employees to both the learning centers and his nearby company, Innovation Foods. To make the facilities even more attractive to parents, they’ve introduced the Parent app that offers real-time, parent-accessible cameras so mom or dad can check in on their child any time of the day right from their phone.

Kuhn sees the new childcare incentives as a pandemic paradigm shift.

“One of the biggest silver linings of the pandemic is finding more balance — and for having a career that gives you more than just a good paycheck,” he says. “People want and should expect childcare in some format. This is just one of the many benefits we added that speaks to employees’ specific needs and is a positive learning from the pandemic.”

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