Simple Steps Every Employer Can Take

Helpful information and parent-friendly policies can have a big impact.

Sharing resources related to early education and child care is one of the simplest ways to support working parents with young children and create an ECE-friendly workplace culture.

You can build on good communication by finding ways to give employees greater flexibility. Even small adjustments to scheduling and leave policies can make a big difference for working parents and, in turn, have a positive impact on recruitment, retention, and employee engagement.

Reminders about Child Care Tax Credits

When you distribute W-2s for tax filing, include a reminder to employees that they may be eligible for the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Maryland Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Employees who pay someone to take care of their children while they work may be able to claim these tax credits.

Parents should consult the following links for more information about eligibility and filing.

IRS Topic: Child and Dependent Care Credit

IRS Interactive Tax Assistant: Am I Eligible to Claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit?

Maryland Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Share ECE Resources with Employees

Sharing good information about child care can help your employees find answers and solutions, while also sending a clear message that you care about ECE and the welfare of their children. Here are some great ways to share ECE resources in your workplace:

  • Include a handout about high-quality child care in new-hire packets. For instance, use our ECE Toolkit Quick Guide: How to Find High-Quality Care
  • Point employees to the parent-focused pages in this Toolkit with this link: ECEtoolkit.org/resources/parents
  • Share ECE information in your company newsletter.
  • Create a resource area dedicated to ECE information and resources. This space could be physical or virtual.
  • Contract with a nonprofit group or consultant to offer workplace seminars on child care, parenting young children, and early childhood development.
  • If you have a wellness program, be sure it includes topics and resources for parents with young children.

The Parenting Encouragement Program (PEP), based in Kensington, MD, offers community workshops on positive parenting techniques, and employers can contract with PEP to offer the workshops on site, with a discounted rate available to nonprofits. Learn more.

Share Information on Child Development

High-quality child care is part of the bigger picture of helping children fulfill their potential and prepare for school. You can also support ECE by sharing information about parenting and child development. Here are a few valuable resources to share with parents:

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a section on their website with information for families.
  • HealthyChildren.org is the parenting website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It offers a wealth of information, with articles specific to ages and stages (including baby, toddler and preschool), healthy living, family life, and more.
  • The Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) offers affordable online and in-person workshops and classes on a variety positive-parenting topics.

The Basics are five parenting principles that encompass much of what experts find is important for children from birth to age three. Parents can sign up to receive text messages twice a week with tips to boost their child's learning, matched to the child’s age: Basic Insights Text Message Sign-up

Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO of Gaithersburg–Germantown Chamber of Commerce, on employers using the ECE Toolkit to give their employees a menu of options for Early Care and Education.

Flexible Scheduling

Family-friendly scheduling policies allow employees to better balance work responsibilities with parenting, especially when they face a child care challenge, such as a sick child or trying to manage care arrangements for more than one child.


Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you may be able to implement one or more flexible scheduling options. Here are a few common types to consider.

Compressed hours: Allow employees to work their normal number of hours in fewer days. For instance, an employee who works 40 hours a week could choose to work four 10-hour days rather than five 8-hour days.

 

Telecommuting: If your business is compatible with telework, try giving employees the option to work from home or a remote workspace one or more days per week. For parents trying to coordinate child care and work schedules, telecommuting can simplify their daily routine, reducing stress and distractions so that they can focus on work and get more done. To begin with, time usually spent commuting can be spent working, and you may also see an increase in productivity. A two-year study at one company showed a 13.5% productivity boost among full-time telecommuters.

Did you know? Nationwide, the number of organizations offering telecommuting benefits tripled in 20 years, from 20% in 1996 to 60% in 2016. (Source: SHRM)


Flexible daily hours:
Give employees the option to adjust their regular arrival and departure time. For instance, an employee who typically works 9 to 5 might choose to work 8 to 4, or 10 to 6. This allows parents to choose a work schedule that doesn’t conflict with drop-off and pick-up times for child care.

You could also give employees the option to to occasionally arrive later, leave earlier, or take an extended break during the day. Establishing some type of daily flexibility can allow working parents to avoid child care scheduling conflicts, and also to respond to child care challenges.

Flexible re-entry for new parents: When employees return to work after parental leave, provide flexible scheduling options to ease the transition, such as reduced hours, job sharing, or telecommuting.

For information on parental leave policies and more types of flexible work arrangements, see the Toolkit page Employee Benefits for Working Parents.

Some types of jobs and workplaces, such as manufacturing or retail, aren't compatible with flexible benefits like telecommuting or individualized work hours. This article from Gallup, Inc., offers guidance on how to take a broader approach to flexibility: Thinking Flexibly About Flexible Work Arrangements

Family-Friendly Leave & Paid Time Off

For many working parents with young children, greater flexibility about taking time off from work would be have a huge impact on their ability to balance work duties, parental duties, and child care schedules.

Offering parental leave to new mothers and fathers makes it much more likely that new parents will return to work, saving you the cost of recruiting and training new workers. This is even more true if you can provide paid parental leave.

For detailed information about parental leave, including what is required by the law and several ways you might expand your current parental leave policy, visit the Toolkit page Employee Benefits for Working Parents.

In addition to providing leave to new parents, you also can support parents with young children by implementing paid-time off policies that offer the kind of flexibility they need and value.

Keep in mind that employers in Montgomery County must insure that any paid-time off policies adhere to the The Montgomery County Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law and the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. With that in mind, you may be able to go beyond what the law requires in order to design family-friendly leave policies that will help you attract and retain employees with young children, and also cut down on absenteeism related to child care challenges.

One possible approach is a Paid Time Off (PTO) bank that combines traditional vacation time, sick time and personal time into a single bank of hours/days for employees to use when they take paid time off from work. If a PTO bank is feasible for your organization, it can give all employees, including parents, greater discretion on how to their time off.

For guidance on creating a PTO policy and whether this type of policy is a good fit for your business, see this article from Paychex: Creating a PTO Policy to Meet Your Business Needs

Private Spaces for Breastfeeding Mothers

For mothers returning to work while they are still breastfeeding, an essential part of providing care for their infants is the ability to pump milk during work hours. Breastfeeding also can have health benefits for both infants and mothers.

Did you know? When a breastfeeding employee has a secure, comfortable place for lactation, she will be able to pump milk more easily and get back to work faster.

Making appropriate accommodations for nursing mothers is good business, with real return on investment.

For instance, mothers and fathers of breastfed infants are less likely to take time off to care for sick children because those infants get sick less often. Human milk boosts an infant’s immune system, and for infants in child care settings where they are exposed to a multitude of germs and viruses, human milk provides even greater protection.

Supporting breastfeeding mothers also lowers health care costs, reduces  turnover, and increases productivity and loyalty.

For more on the ROI of providing space for breastfeeding and lactation support in the workplace, see this brochure from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Business Case for Breastfeeding for Business Managers

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees with a private place (other than a bathroom) where nursing mothers can pump in privacy.

Under FLSA, employees must be provided with reasonable accommodation to express milk and use a breast pump at work, and these protections should be provided until the employee’s baby reaches one year of age. For more details about what the law requires, see this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.

Although the federal law only applies to organizations with more than 50 employees, it makes good business sense for every employer to provide nursing mothers with a private space and adequate breaks to pump milk.

How to Support Nursing Moms at Work provides in-depth information from the Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This resource includes a series of brief videos showing how lactation break time and space can be created in all types of jobs and workplaces.

Case Study

How a Small Business Offers Family-Friendly Flexibility

Text Design, Inc., located in Frederick, Maryland, is a small business with a ECE-friendly culture built around flexibility and communication. This small graphic design studio offers its employees flexible hours and anytime work-from-home access.