No Back to School? How Creative Employers Are Filling in the Care Gaps

Bright Horizons Childcare

Summer was a challenge for working parents. Compassionate employers are making the fall easier.

Compassionate employers offer childcare for working parents amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labor Day is usually the dividing line between the summer that was, and the school year that will be.

This year it was just Monday–another day in what one parent described as a formless space of time.

“There’s no beginning and no end,” she told me. “Just a nefarious middle.”

She’s not alone. Parents around the country are treading their own nefarious middles, and have been since the pandemic turned them into hybrid employees/parents/teachers trying to do all things at the same time.
Many are thinking about cutting back on work; others are considering whether they should leave jobs entirely. The effects have been particularly disastrous for working women, with one (now an ex-employee) characterizing the effects on her career this way: “A few years ago, I was at the White House interviewing the First Lady,” she told Fast Company’s Pavithra Mohan, “and now I’m adjudicating battles between Pokemon players.”

Parents, like the above, account for roughly one-third of the workforce, meaning their dire situation is employers’ dire situation too. It illustrates the impossible situation working mothers and fathers currently find themselves in, and the reason for the creative efforts employers are using to try to help.

How creative is creative?

Filling in for regular care: What parents really need is care when they don’t have it. And Bank of America, says Fast Company, is one of the many companies expanding backup care to make sure they do. In 2020, the financial giant added 10 days (going from 40 to 50) to its backup offering, committing 1.2 million days of care for its 20,000 employees. “Employees can either have their child attend one of our centers or partner centers,” our CEO Stephen Kramer told Fast Company, “or we send caregivers to the home.”

Filling in for schools: Cisco parents with children as old as 12 can now bring their kids to a center for help with distance learning. Other programs aim to connect parents of older kids to at-home support and learning pods. “We’re really trying to take the socioeconomic piece out of it,” our CEO told Fast Company. “Because we have great relationships with our employer clients, we are truly encouraging them to subsidize significantly these learning opportunities for their employees’ children,” he said.

Putting together full-time care: Research stops–even crucial research on testing–when childcare does. So leadership at the Broad Institute in Boston took over a Bright Horizons community center to provide the childcare parents needed. On-site care–what the Fast Company author called the “Holy Grail of Benefits”–is already operated by Salesforce, ExxonMobil and the Home Depot, among others. More clients, said our CEO, are considering subsidized Bright Horizons centers for employees working outside of headquarters.

One thing’s for sure: Parents need their employers’ creative support. Resources that were scarce before the pandemic are practically diamond-like now, with dire estimates showing the number of existing childcare slots to be shrinking. That employers are paying such close attention to the working parent plight is a glimmer of good news in a year that has felt like a vast expanse of nothing but bad.

“The rise of on-site childcare?” asks a headline in the Fast Company article.

We can only hope.

Lisa Oppenheimer is the director of Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons.


Summer was a challenge for working parents. Compassionate employers are making the fall easier.

Compassionate employers offer childcare for working parents amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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