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Kid Cavalry

Employees are fighting a home-front battle with sick kids and lousy child care . . . and you can help.

If you have employees with children, then you have employees who occasionally need to find backup child care if their children are sick or their regular providers are unavailable. And too often, their only known option is to stay home, leaving you to deal with the problems their absence creates. What can you do to be supportive of working parents and still meet the needs of your business? Cathy Leibow, president of FamilyCare Inc., a work/life benefits company in Pleasanton, California, offers these suggestions:

Be flexible. If adhering to a rigid on-site schedule isn't essential to getting the job done, allowing some flex-ibility in working hours, temporary telecommuting and making up missed time goes a long way toward building loyalty, mutual respect and motivation, says Leibow. Don't force employees to lie and say they're ill when in fact they're dealing with sick youngsters or child-care problems.

Provide information on sick and backup child-care resources. Make a list of area sick-child-care centers, in-home agencies that provide nannies on short notice and a temporary basis, and homes and centers that allow drop-ins. Someone on your staff can do the research, or you can outsource it to a resource-and-referral service. Provide hard copies or post the information on your Web site; in either case, Leibow advises, update it at least quarterly, because the information is bound to change. Also, include a liability disclaimer pointing out that you're not making a recommendation but simply providing information.

Contract with a work/life or resource-and-referral company for support. Look for a service that offers 24-hour toll-free support and that will also help your employees become better consumers of child-care services by teaching them how to make good selections.

Consider subsidizing the cost of emergency child care. You could reimburse a percentage of the cost up to a specified maximum to encourage workers to opt for emergency care rather than taking the day off. Avoiding the lost productivity, and possibly the need to pay overtime to other workers, makes this a wise investment.



Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.


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This article was originally published in the November 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Kid Cavalry.

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