Should the Street Take Care? The Impact of Corporate-Sponsored Day Care of Business in the New Millenium

Tuesday, January 1st, 2002 at 12:00 am by Jamie Koniak
Jamie Koniak, Should the Street Take Care? The Impact of Corporate-Sponsored Day Care of Business in the New Millenium, 2002 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 193

As the balance between work and family becomes more and more difficult to strike, corporate-sponsored day care is quickly becoming an ever-important offering on many large companies’ resumes. Due in large part to inadequate government assistance in the realm of child care, the private sector employer has become, albeit reluctantly, a key provider of day care. Even so, the percentage of companies that offer child care is alarmingly small. A recent survey of over 1,000 American companies, conducted by the Families and Work Institute, found that a mere 9 percent of businesses with 100 or more employees offer on-site child care. While little documentation and academic research exist regarding the effects that child care has had on employers who have implemented it, the extant studies and statistics confirm that the benefits are vast. Indeed, corporate child care aids in recruiting employees and retaining them. It enhances productivity and heightens employee morale. In general, it provides employers with a competitive edge in today’s changing labor market. Corporate day care seems to make perfect business sense; so what factors are responsible for the small amount available and the reluctance of employers to offer it? While it is clear that employer-provided child care benefits employees and their children, does it truly benefit the employer?

This note will examine corporate-sponsored day care and its value to the private-sector employer. The question is one of balancing: in the face of legal fears and heightened regulation, is corporate day care as good an idea for the employer as it is for the employee? At what cost is the service made available and on whom is the ultimate burden falling? Part II, briefly sketches the laws and events that led up to the emergence of employer-provided child care. This timeline will help illustrate where we stand today in terms of the intersection of day care and the workplace. It will also serve to contextualize areas still needing development to complete a successful merger between child care and business.

Part III, analyzes the typical forms of child care assistance offered by businesses and the benefits that providing the service has for those employers. Part IV examines the reasons why, despite these benefits, companies remain apprehensive about the endeavor. These factors include costs and fears, equality issues, and regulatory constraints in offering the service. This section will emphasize the way in which regulation can serve simultaneously as both a catalyst for, and an inhibitor of, the growth of child care. Finally, Part V addresses the future of the day care/workplace merger and proposes an appropriate next step. It focuses on the Family Medical Leave Act (‘FMLA‘) as prototypical legislation from which we can build a kind of ‘Family Medical Stay Act‘ (‘FMSA‘) that would offer child care in the private sector as an incentive for employees to remain at work instead of taking leave. By mandating and regulating the service on a federal level, using the FMLA as a prototype, it posits that both employer and employee will reap benefits.

Existing scholarship in the field traces the path child care has taken in this country, and much of it critiques what has yet to occur. These contributions, however, examine day care from the perspective of the employee and the family. This Note adds to the project by examining the issues from the employer’s standpoint. It seeks to single out the private sector and examine why holes exist in its long-awaited offerings. This analysis is timely as we find ourselves confronting a new labor market in which child care has transformed itself from a mere benefit to an absolute necessity.

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