Friday, December 26, 2008

Employer-Sponsored Daycare: Benefit or Necessity?

Employer-sponsored daycare is generally considered by employers to be a benefit for their employees. Often, in determining the feasibility of beginning a program, employers examine their projected return on investment. Factors to take into account are reduced absenteeism and tardiness, increased productivity, and increased recruitment and retention. These days, however, with the downturn in the economy, employers may have to change their view of child care.

Daily news is peppered with reports of child care programs closing. Most programs run on very tight margins, so when their programs are not full, they are simply unable to make ends meet. The closure of daycare centers and family daycare programs means less choices for parents who still must have care for their children while they work. While some parents have the advantage of having reliable family members nearby that can help with child care in the area, many do not. Some parents may have to rely upon unlicensed child care programs which are generally less expensive than licensed programs, but are also generally less stable. Worse yet are parents who feel that they have no choice but to leave their children home alone while they work. It won't take too many licensed programs closing for employers to be faced with having to provide child care programs for their employees to even be able to work at all.

See the story below for information on how the lack of availability and affordability of child care is already impacting parents and children.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Additional Cost Saving Tips for Daycares

Along with ensuring that your daycare is properly staffed, not overstaffed and certainly not understaffed, there are other ways of cutting costs without compromising quality.

Food: If you are providing the food for the children in your care, be sure that you are being efficient. Make sure your cook knows how many children will be in care for each meal or snack. Based on average serving sizes, your cook can make sure that they prepare enough food for every child without having many leftovers. If there are leftovers, they must be stored properly and reused in a timely manner to ensure safety.

Utilities: Remind your staff to turn off unnecessary lights. When the class is outside on the playground, there is no need for the lights inside the classroom to be on. If there are offices with a lot of natural light, they may not need electric lights turned on all day every day. Make sure that lights in common areas (bathrooms, staff break rooms, etc.) are also turned off when not needed.

Water: Children are notorious for not turning off water faucets, at least not completely. Help remind them to turn the faucet off completely when they are finished, but follow-up to make sure that they did it. Hopefully it won't take long for that habit to form.

Materials: Hopefully the children in your care have already been taught to use materials appropriately, but if they haven't, this is a teaching opportunity that can save you money. Unused paint can be returned to the paint container rather than rinsed away. If hands can be dried with one paper towel, don't use three. If the child only needs half a sheet of purple paper for an art project, save the other half for another child's project. Toilet paper...ahh, what to say? Half a roll is not necessary for a wipe. Your budget and your plumbing will appreciate this lesson, as well as will those who have to man the mops on overflows.

Not only will these efforts help you cut your costs, but they will also help teach the children in your care how to conserve resources.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Top 10 Ways to Encourage a Wage and Hour Audit at Your Daycare

Yes, we're being sarcastic here in our "suggestions", but daycare facilities are notorious for not complying with wage and hour laws--hence the reason more and more facilities are being scrutinized by the wage and hour folks. Make sure your program is not one of them by avoiding these common pitfalls.

10. Always "round down" your employees' hours. Since Wage and Hour laws require you to pay in 15 minute increments, any work for 14 minutes or under is unpaid.

9. Require your teachers to attend a meeting or training and don't pay them for that time.

8. Encourage your teachers to put in unpaid time before or after their regular shifts; you know, "help the team".

7. Ask one of your teachers to go to the store after work to pick up something for the program-and, of course, don't pay them for their time or mileage (and, if you're really bold, don't pay them for what they purchased).

6. Ask one of your teachers to work overtime to cover another teacher's absence, then, instead of paying her overtime, just give her comp time instead.

5. Don't worry about having your employees sign in or out on a daily basis-after all, you know when they are scheduled to work. (By the way, child care licensing agencies love this one as well!)

4. Designate all of your staff members as "exempt" employees so that you can pay them a salary and not have to worry about overtime, etc.

3. Instead of allowing preparation/planning time for your teachers, have them do their planning and material preparation at home.

2. Schedule your teacher's lunch break during the children's nap time so that she can eat her lunch in the classroom while monitoring sleeping children.

1. Hire as few teachers as possible and schedule them to work from open to close.

Hopefully these "suggestions" sound awful to you, but unfortunately they do happen in our industry. Strive to be an "employer of choice" by treating your employees in a fair manner (oh yeah, and in compliance with the law).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Benefits of Employer-Sponsored Child Care

In November 2008, the Consulting Practice at Bright Horizons released a report entitled "The Lasting Impact of Employer-Sponsored Child Care". Any employer, large or small, reading this report would be hard-pressed to argue against employer-sponsored child care. The data, collected from over 4,000 parents currently using employer-sponsored child care, as well as historical information from 100,000 respondents over the past 10 years, provides compelling evidence of the benefits of employer-sponsored child care. That data was broken into several categories, which allows employers to see the benefits of the type of child care program they are considering.

Full-service child care centers (typically on-site):
  • 68% of the respondents stated that the child care program was important in their decision to accept a position with the company.
  • 94% of the respondents stated the child care program would be important in a decision to change jobs.

Back-up child care programs (at or near the work-site):
  • 74% of the respondents stated that they are more likely to continue with the company due to the presence of a back-up child care program.
  • 72% of the respondents stated that they were able to work at least one day in the past 6 months that they would not have been able to work if it had not been for the back-up child care program.
Employee Retention:
  • 80% of respondents stated that they are more likely to stay with their employer because of the child care program.
  • Employees utilizing the child care program experienced 45% less voluntary turnover than employees who did not utilize the child care program.
Employee Productivity:
  • Employees utilizing the child care program were 20% more likely to be rated as "top performers" by their employers.
  • 45% of employees not utilizing the child care program reported missing work in the past 6 months because their child's school or daycare center was closed while only 9% of employees utilizing the child care program reported the same difficulties.

No, employer-sponsored child care programs are not a "quick fix". However, with data like this, it is clear that they are highly effective. Let KidCentric help you start a program.

Download the report here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Parents Fight for Recess

There is a recent article out of New Jersey that details how a group of parents are fighting to pass a law that requires schools to provide a 20-minute recess daily for their students. In their research, these parents found out that only 8 states require a recess period.

As an early childhood professional and a mother of two, I am saddened that schools would need a law to require them to provide recess time for children. I have 3 major reasons for believing that recess is desperately needed in schools: 1) physical fitness, 2) social development, and 3) for lack of a better word--sanity.

1) Physical fitness. We are all bombarded with news of how obesity is taking over our nation and how our children's lives will be shortened by a lack of physical fitness; news on how children spend their time on video games rather than running around outside. Why then would we want to take one more step to remove their opportunities for physical play? (They can't opt for video games at school recess.) Granted, not every child will be physically active during every recess, but a quick perusal of any playground will show a lot of physical activity.

2) Social development. There is a book that describes how the author learned everything he really needed to know in Kindergarten. A similar book could be written about how everything you need to know about living in a society can be learned on the playground. Children don't learn a lot about how to deal with each other when they are sitting at their desks doing school work. On a playground, children learn to share, compromise and deal with disappointment.

3) Sanity. How many of us, as adults, could spend 7 hours of each day with only a quick lunch break? That is what we are sometimes now asking our children to do. We ask them to sit at a desk and pay attention to their teacher for a little over 3 hours, give them 30-40 minutes for lunch (which sometimes barely gives them time to eat their food and, p.s., some schools do not allow talking during this time) and then sit them back at their desk for another 3 hours plus. I couldn't do that, nor would I want my children to do it.

Think back to your recess times--the chance to run off a little energy, breathe some fresh air, interact with your friends. Personally, I looked forward to every recess. Let's make sure our future generations can do the same.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cutting Daycare Staffing Costs

Since staffing costs comprise the largest part of most daycare programs' expenses, the most obvious place to look to cut costs would be in your staffing. Of course, we're not recommending cutting staff wages or benefits as many teachers are already underpaid. 

However, a little extra attention to detail on staff-child ratios could show areas in which you are paying for more staff members than you need. In our program, we use an hourly staff-child ratio tracking sheet to ensure that we are neither over ratio nor under ratio. Each classroom is required to make an hourly note of the number of children in attendance and the number of staff members in the classroom. 

By studying these sheets each day, you can see very clearly if you are staffing each room properly. If you are consistently overstaffed in one classroom at a particular time of the day, you can see that you need to change your staff schedule and either move staff members to another room or cut some hours. Along with this "after the fact" checking, you also need to have a policy in place for your late-day staff so that they understand which employee(s) should clock out and go home early if children have gone home early and they find themselves overstaffed.