– Employer Roundtable Participant
At CivicAction, we know that getting things right from the start is critical. At our April 2015 Summit, we examined childhood health as a key issue in driving our region’s health and resilience.
With further analysis and consultations, we narrowed our focus to increasing accessibility to quality child care. It is well known that rates of return on human development investment are highest during the early years, and yet about 45-50% of children (0-4 years old) are in need of licensed care in Ontario.
In September 2016, the Government of Ontario announced their commitment to create 100,000 more child care spaces over the next five years. Over a period of three months, CivicAction engaged a diverse group of employers to inform the Ministry of Education’s Renewed Early Years and Child Care Framework and Expansion Strategy. 31 different employers contributed through a series of one-on-one interviews and a roundtable meeting co-chaired by Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris on January 26, 2017.
Nan DasGupta, Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, Toronto; CivicAction Leadership Foundation Board Member
We asked employers to describe what the ideal child care system would look like in Ontario. To most, an ideal system would:
Employers recognized that a better child care system would have a positive effect on productivity and talent retention, as well as leading to a major economic boost of GDP. A well-built and accessible system would also help more women stay in their workplaces and ease the transition to and from maternity leave.
When child care arrangements fall through, employers face absenteeism issues. For workplaces where shifts are instrumental, this may mean employees have to work short-staffed when there is no backup in place and the employee may have to rely on other forms of child care in an emergency
Employers highlighted that it is still typical for mothers to stay home longer than fathers if parents cannot find accessible and affordable care. This is especially true if they have two or more children. This trend affects the gender wage gap as the longer women are away from the workforce, the greater the effect on their future earning potential.
Through these consultations, it has become clear that employers are eager to do more. This may include offering subsidies, flexible scheduling, on-site care, or emergency care services. They flagged that they still require more information about implementing new policies, making the business case, and the current system, as well as potential financial assistance from the government in order to do more. There is also an interest in learning about best practices from other employers.
These employer consultations made it clear that organizations do recognize the significant social and economic benefits that accompany accessible, responsive, and affordable quality child care. It was also clear that employers can, and are willing to, play a role in transforming Ontario’s child care system. For many employers, providing support to their employees in this area could be an opportunity to attract and keep valuable talent.
As the Ministry continues to work to develop a renewed plan for early years and child care expansion strategy, we encourage ongoing and deeper employer engagement to build the best possible child care system in Ontario.