The national conversation over paid parental leave is gathering steam, becoming a go-to political talking point and a popular benefit for techie companies looking to attract recruits with splashy benefits. Meanwhile, however, another family-friendly perk—on-site daycare—is rare, and growing even more so.
This week, Bloomberg Businessweek visited Patagonia HQ in California for a look at their program. Unfortunately, it’s an anomaly:
Yet unlike other family-friendly benefits that are on the rise—such as paid parental leave—on-site child care is on the verge of extinction. Only 3 percent of organizations offer unsubsidized day care services, according to the Society for Human Resources 2016 benefits survey. That figure is down from 9 percent in 1996. “It certainly would be an advantageous benefit, I think, that many people would enjoy having,” said Tanya Mulvey, a researcher at SHRM.
It’s not cheap or simple for a company to provide on-site daycare. Patagonia’s program apparently costs a cool million annually, even with tax deductions and contributions from parents. Regulations are very involved—for very good reasons—and, for instance, mandatory staff-to-child ratios mean that Patagonia has to keep a total of 28 people on the payroll to provide this particular benefit. It’s easier to offer more paid leave, or work from home arrangements.
But the company says they recover most of their costs, and it’s worth the money:
Best of all, day care saves Patagonia on employee attrition. The company claims it has 25 percent lower turnover with employees who put their kids in the program. And 100 percent of moms return to work after maternity leave, a stat that the company attributes to the availability of nearby child care. The program has been so successful that Patagonia opened a second infant day care center for the 450 workers in its Reno warehouse. “We found that it’s a really good business decision for us financially,” Carter said. “It’s worth more than the risk of losing valuable employees.”
Probably because picking a daycare is a serious and tricky decision as well as a logistical headache, depending on availability in your particular area, and going through work sure simplifies things, and why even take a call from a recruiter for another company when you know they’re not going to match this particular benefit?
Plus, as the article notes—free test pilots for prototypes of kids’ clothes.