Child Care

Backup or Emergency Care

Backup and emergency child care programs are offered at an employer’s work site, in centers or in an employee’s home, and allow employees to continue working despite temporary disruptions in normal caregiving arrangements or when a child is mildly ill. Employers can negotiate rates with local child care facilities.

Benefits to Employers1

  • Increases productivity
  • Improves recruitment
  • Increases retention, reducing turnover costs Reduces employee absenteeism
  • Reduces “fill-in” costs

Benefits to Children and Parents/Famillies2,3

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves work/life balance
  • Emergency or back-up care may reduce risk of spreading illness when a child is mildly ill by encouraging parents to keep the child out of normal daycare or school
  • Reduces financial burden when employer negotiates a lower rate

Research or Recommendations from National Organizations

Employers who need extra support getting started may want to enlist a child care resource and referral agency. To find an agency near you, search the North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Council’s online directory.

Agencies can help by offering:

  • On-site classes for employees who are parents.
  • A review of employers’ organizational work-life culture and guidance developing family-friendly policies and procedures.
  • Guidance on employer-sponsored subsidies to help employees afford the cost of child care.
  • Assistance setting up and implementing on-site child care.
  • Assistance developing an emergency plan for on-site child care in the case of inclement weather, natural disasters, or other emergencies.
  • Help with child care referrals for parents.

Employers considering child care benefits should explore the tax benefits. Providing child care can be expensive, but many of the costs can be taken as a deductible business expense or as a tax credit.4

Employers who are ready to get started can:

  •  Provide employees with a list of emergency childcare facilities in the area.
  • Offer employees access to care through an online membership service.
  • Contract with a child care company to put a back-up child care facility on site.
  • Offer access to a local child care facility with reserved emergency spots or an in-house child care coordinator who can find emergency care.

Range of Practices in the United States

Ten percent of workers had access to any workplace child care benefit in 2017.5

Four percent of more than 3,000 US Society of Human Resources Management members offered access to back-up child care in 2018.6

Low-wage workers, who often have the greatest difficulty finding and paying for high quality child care, are less likely to receive child care benefits at work. Only two percent of workers whose wages were in the bottom 10 percent had access to any child care benefit in 2017.7

More than eight in 10 working parents say they wish their employer offered some sort of child care benefit, and more than seven in 10 parents say their work has been impacted by unreliable care.8

Case Study

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Location: Durham • Year Founded: 1933 • Number of Employees: 4,700

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, employees don’t have to miss a day of work when their regular child care falls through. Blue Cross NC offers its employees access to a 4,000-square-foot back-up and emergency on-site child care facility.

All employees receive access to the five-star on-site facility, managed by Bright Horizons, for 30 days per child from infants to age 12 at a subsidized rate. An additional 15 days are available at full cost. Three care rooms—one for infants and toddlers, one for preschool children and one for school-aged children—offer daily activities and curriculum along with breakfast and lunch. Blue Cross NC subsidizes the rest of the costs to operate the facility on top of what employees pay.

“There are those times when schools close, the babysitter doesn’t show up or your childcare center closes,” says Chief People Officer Fara Palumbo. “The back-up center is a great way for parents to have a way to solve that emergency issue and still come to the office.”

In addition to emergency care, parents can use their back-up care days toward summer and track-out camps offered by the facility. Additionally, new parents have access to 30 extra days of full-time care at the on-site facility when they transition back to work after their paid parental leave.

Christy Colgan and her son at the Blue Cross NC back-up child care center

Christy Colgan, who manages Blue Cross NC’s employee wellness program, says the transition back time, known as the TOT program, was invaluable with both of her two children. 

She remembers feeling comforted by the fact that her oldest son, Connor, was close by during her first few weeks back at work. “Because he was just down the street, I knew that if I needed to go see him, I could go see him at any moment,” she says.

Palumbo says the back-up child care facility is consistently ranked among the most valued benefits by employees at Blue Cross NC— especially the TOT program. And the TOT program is a natural transition back to work after parental leave. Blue Cross NC offers 12 paid weeks of leave to new mothers and new fathers following a birth or adoption of a child.

“You’re home on leave. Now you have to make this transition back to work. And either you’re not ready with your child care center or you’re personally not ready to leave your child in the child care center that you’ve arranged,” Palumbo says. “With this program, you bring your child on site for four weeks and you have full time care. You can take breaks during the day if you need to, to go nurse your child, or just to visit your child.“

Another benefit to help new parents are the lactation rooms, or mothers’ rooms, located throughout the Blue Cross NC campus. In each room, employees have access to comfortable chairs, a locker to store equipment, a hospital grade breast pump, a mini fridge and a sink—everything they need to be comfortable during pumping breaks.

“It’s not an easy decision to be a working mom. I felt like I had the support to come back to work, and that I could be my whole self at work. I feel comfortable that I’m able to provide a great life for my kids and still be really present with my family every day.”

Colgan, who breastfed both her children for the first year of their lives, says the mothers’ rooms helped her reach her breastfeeding goal.

“I felt really fortunate that I had this really nice room that I could go to and take time to be away,” Colgan says. 

“One of my friends is a geologist, she’s almost one of the only females at her office, and when she had her first child, she just had to (pump milk) in her cubicle, because there was really nowhere else to go.”

Overall, Palumbo says the mothers’ rooms, the paid leave for mothers and fathers, the backup child care center and other benefits for families, such as flexible work schedules or telecommuting options, help Blue Cross NC fulfill its company mission to improve the health and well-being of the company’s customers and communities.

But beyond the benefits, its the company culture of support for all employees—especially working parents—that makes Blue Cross NC a great place to work, Colgan says.

“It’s not an easy decision to be a working mom. A lot of my friends who have kids…a lot of them stay at home, because when they look at it, they’re like, ‘If I’m going to spend half my paycheck on child care, I’d rather be at home with my kids,’” she says. 

“I felt like I had the support to come back to work, and that I could be my whole self at work. I feel comfortable that I’m able to provide a great life for my kids and still be really present with my family every day.”


Sample Benefits at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

  • Twelve weeks of paid parental leave following a birth or adoption
  • Back-up and emergency child care on site, along with access to emergency and sick care for dependents at an employee’s home
  • Fully-stocked lactation rooms to support breastfeeding mothers.
  • Telecommuting, flexible work schedules, part-time work options available
  • Paid time off for illness, vacation (employees have a general paid time off policy that can be used for either)
  • Health, dental, vision insurance; life insurance; flexible spending account; dependent care reimbursement account (with employer contribution of $500 per year)
Show 8 footnotes
  1. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNCpolicyfactsheet-061418.pdf
  2. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNCpolicyfactsheet-061418.pdf
  3. Young, Allison. “The working parents guide to dealing with sick kids.” Today’s Parent. June 2, 2015. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/family-health/theworking-parents-guide-to-dealing-with-sick-kids/
  4. Marz, Michael. “Can a Business Write Off Childcare For Employees?” Houston Chronicle. https://work.chron.com/can-business-write-off-childcareemployees-16377.html
  5. Acosta, R. Alexander and William J. Wiatrowski. “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2017.” U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 2017. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2017/ebbl0061.pdf
  6. Society for Human Resource Management. “2018 Employee Benefits: The Evolution of Benefits.” April 2018. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf
  7. Acosta, R. Alexander and William J. Wiatrowski. “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2017.” U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 2017. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2017/ebbl0061.pdf
  8. Care.com. “This is how much child care costs in 2018.” July 27, 2018. https://www.care.com/c/stories/2423/how-much-does-child-care-cost/