THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: CHILDCARE BENEFITS ARE BENEFICIAL TO YOUR FIRM
By Diane C. Yu, Chair,
ABA Commission on Women in the Profession
The statistics on the number of two-working parent and single-parent households, though familiar terrain, continue to remind us that the need for more options in quality childcare is as pressing as ever. The so-called traditional family, comprising a father who leaves the house to go to work and a mother who stays home with the children, represents fewer than 13.5 percent of all households. Traditional nowadays is anything but usual.
One of the most important acts an employer can do to attract, retain and encourage a dedicated, highly achieving staff is to help meet the childcare needs of those employees who have children. This is particularly true of the legal profession, where the demands of long hours and frequent travel prove challenging to most parents trying to secure childcare, and when time away from the office caring for children results in a loss of “billable hours.”
This is not a “women’s issue,” though it affects the career paths and options of working women perhaps more so than men. It is a “good business issue.” Quite simply, when employees feel that their families’ needs are being met, they are able to focus fully on their jobs. No one wins-not the employee, not her family, not her employer-when there is worry about childcare.
Unfortunately, although we in the legal profession talk about work/life balance, we often have a hard time translating our ideas into actions. Many firms have been unable or unwilling to embrace progressive childcare practices. Oftentimes their failure is simply due to a lack of understanding or practical knowledge about implementing childcare benefits.
Into this void steps the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, whose recently published Legal Progeny: A Guide to Providing Child Care Benefits for Legal Employers, Lawyers & Bar Associations offers straightforward guidance to law firms about providing childcare benefits. These benefits can range from full service, on-site childcare facilities, to financial assistance in the form of vouchers and discount programs for off-site childcare providers, to referral programs and educational services. This publication is but one portion of the Commission on Women’s ongoing Child Care Initiative, which works to encourage legal employers and bar associations of all sizes to join the growing ranks of organizations that are meeting this urgent need. Consider that one of the common factors among Working Woman magazine’s annual survey of the best 100 companies for women was that the company offered some sort of childcare benefit. In the top 10, not only were childcare benefits available, but a dedication to innovations in childcare, as well as a demonstrated commitment to flexibility in schedules, options and benefits, were characteristic of the companies’ philosophies and culture.
Providing childcare is one of the most effective ways legal employers can help their employees achieve work/life balance while enhancing their productivity and profits. Legal employers and bar associations can craft “win-win” responses to the needs of their employees and members for reliable, affordable, high-quality care for their children. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the childcare challenge; but the benefit options outlined in Legal Progeny are flexible enough to be adapted to a variety of employment settings. Providing childcare benefits enhances recruitment efforts and reflects positively on an organization’s reputation as an employer. The best and the brightest want more than a paycheck with a big name attached. They want a firm that recognizes the value of providing a work environment that is encouraging of its employees. Reliable, affordable, high quality childcare can help lawyers and support staff combine rewarding careers with fulfilling family lives-a goal that we all in the profession share.