It is time employers supported childcare and mother-friendly work environment

Did you know that when companies support childcare, they can hire and retain talented people, thereby helping to boost profits and productivity? Moreover, childcare provision enables more women and men to participate in paid labour.

This is according to the Tackling Childcare: The Business Case for Employer-Supported Childcare report that was released by International Finance Corporation (IFC) last year.

In addition, children who have access to early childhood education and care are more likely to perform well in school and be healthier, and grow up to be productive as adults. Hence, employer-supported childcare can result in a win-win situation for employees and their children, employers, and economies.

Image courtesy of Daily Mail UK

The report draws on 10 case studies of companies around the world offering various childcare options, highlights of which are provided below:

  • Recruitment: Offering childcare support can improve the quality of applicants and the speed at which vacancies can be filled. It helps Akamai in the United States and Mindtree in India to recruit and retain highly qualified software engineers, enables Borusan in Turkey to work toward building a gender-diverse workforce in a mostly male-dominated heavy manufacturing industry, allows companies such as Schön Klinik Neustadt in Germany to recruit staff for their 24/7 operations, and helps MAS Kreeda Al Safi-Madaba and Martur recruit women in locations where it is uncommon for mothers to enter formal employment.
  • Retention: Textile producer Nalt Enterprise in Vietnam estimates that it costs 85% of a factory worker’s annual salary to replace that worker. Offering childcare at Nalt reduced staff turnover by one third. Similarly, car component producer Martur in Turkey estimates that it takes eight months for a new production worker to become fully productive.
  • Reduced staff turnover: In Martur’s team-centered environment, a new employee’s lower productivity reduces the productivity of the whole line. At Martur, offering childcare-related benefits reduced staff turnover by approximately 15%. The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. in Japan realised a more than four-fold increase in the retention of new mothers and saved an estimated 5,000 million Japanese yen ($45 million) in employee turnover-related costs by offering initiatives such as extended maternity leave.
  • Productivity gains: At MAS Kreeda Al Safi-Madaba, absences due to sick leave fell by 9% in the first nine months after a workplace crèche was opened. By enabling its employees to work through childcare crises, Akamai more than recoups the costs of its backup care benefits. Farm employees at Afrifresh in South Africa have reported greater peace of mind and ability to focus on their work knowing that their children are out of harm’s way and cared for in the company’s on-site crèche. A plant manager at Pandurata Alimentos Ltda. (Bauducco) in Brazil has noted that childcare benefits have led to a reduction in accident rates as employees are more focused and at ease knowing that their children are safe.

Kenya is still lagging behind

With such a win-win situation for everybody, companies in Kenya are still not doing much to ensure that there are facilities and programmes solely dedicated to the needs of mothers and their children. A number of them are trying and Safaricom, for instance, is happy with the fruits of the initiative so far.

“We continue to create the most mother-friendly working conditions we can to reduce the disruption and costs associated with replacing women leaving the workforce to raise families. Aside from supporting new mothers, we are also actively identifying female employees with leadership potential and deliberately growing them at every level of the company”, said Steve Chege, Director, Corporate Affairs, Safaricom.

Speaking to Afromum in an interview, human resources practitioner, Ivy Wambui, said that while they are aware of the difficulties faced by mothers of young children, some companies were really struggling financially and it was a miracle that they are even breaking even. Introducing such measures in the workplace will require money which they do not have at the moment. This has made many companies shelve the idea for the moment.

James Muturi who owns a farm produce distributing company says that most Chief Executive Officers that run in his circles were wary about employing women of childbearing age because they were afraid that they would need childcare facilities which were too expensive for the company to bear.

In 2017, Hon Sabina Chege tabled the Breastfeeding Mothers bill, which called for government and private companies to provide a nursing room for mothers, complete with baby changing facilities. The bill, now a law, also requires public facilities such as restaurants that can accommodate 30 persons to have baby changing facilities.

Muturi warns that this could affect the way employers view women employers, like more of a liability than an asset. It is not right but it is happening.

As it stands, almost one in 10 of the world’s population, 679 million, are children younger than five years old. To thrive and develop, these children and their older siblings need care.

A mother Breast Feeding
A mother Breast Feeding (image courtesy)

For the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries, improving access to childcare goes hand in hand with fostering workplace gender diversity, and helping parents enter and advance in the workforce while enabling companies to strengthen their bottom line.

IFC’s focus on removing barriers, such as lack of childcare, to women’s (and men’s) access to more and better jobs is embedded in the World Bank Group’s gender strategy and IFC’s vision focused on creating markets, particularly in fragile, conflict-affected, and low-income countries.

In countries where employer-supported childcare is mandatory, IFC is working with its clients to substantiate the business case and to help them go beyond compliance and implement childcare strategies best suited to their business needs, thus resulting in better business results.

Employers need not fear at the mere mention of childcare and women in the workplace. Granted, every businessman is in business to make money but this cannot be done if their employees are ill at ease.

A woman who has to keep rushing home to breastfeed her child during lunch hour may not have time to eat and this may affect her productivity. Some may be there physically but their mind will be at home sympathizing with their poor child who may not be getting proper care from her minders. Having these facilities in the workplace is certainly a win-win for everybody.


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