A few years ago I shared an office with a lot of ladies that were having babies, most returning to work part time around the twelve month mark. Because so many of us had young children and breastfed beyond returning to work, staff often rallied the powers that be for an onsite child care centre, an idea they were not unreceptive to. Now for the spoiler alert - I’m going to create some controversy here by shyly raising my hand and saying I was not a fan of the plan.
My reasons were not controversial, and not based on workplace politics; they basically stemmed from a concern that without a little more distance than being a few rooms away, I would get nothing done, and knowing I was so close, yet so far away, the boys would fail to settle in. Having said that, I didn’t actively oppose the plan (nary a negative comment, promise!), and was certainly aware that I was coming from the luxurious perspective of being two streets from home, and four streets from day care, so I could pop in for a lunch time breast feed, and I didn’t have to factor in a half hour traffic jam when doing the day care run.
So when I found myself talking to Tanya Titman, director of Consolid8 and mother of four young children, and she mentioned her workplace has on site day care facilities that she had initiated, I had to ask: ‘aren’t the kids constantly distracted by the fact that mummy is just a few doors away?’
As it turns out, my theory was proved to be flawed, and Tanya commented that she gets a lot of quality staff that come looking to work for her because of the facilities. “With my first two children, I went back to work quite early as I was a partner in an accounting practice and work didn’t stop when I went on leave. I had 6 -8 weeks off work after both Ariella and Jacobie’s birth and then organised for a nanny to be at home with the children a few days a week, with my mother and mother-in-law helping out the other two days. I expressed milk every three to four hours to ensure there was enough to get through the next day.”
Finding the experience very stressful, Tanya was keen to create a workplace that would make returning to work easier for mums and bubs, and decided to set up an onsite crèche at her business.
As it turned out, the set up of such a facility was no cheap walk in the park. “There was the initial set up costs, fitting out the room and making sure we complied with all the safety issues. We didn’t ‘fit’ the legislation and therefore didn’t qualify for any childcare rebates for staff, so I made the decision to provide the 50% rebate so staff were not disadvantaged.”
The pros for mums and bubs are obvious. Being able to return to work without the stress of being separated from bubs has enormous benefits. Being able to breastfeed is a huge advantage, as well as just being able to see your children throughout the day. Tanya said they encourage mums and dads to spend time with their children throughout the day – staff visit their kids for lunch and pop in at special times whenever possible.
Shellon Dunlop is Consolid8’s Business Service Manager and has two boys, aged nine months and two and a half years. She applied for work at Consolid8 because of the child care facilities (and of course, an interest in that line of work!) “My previous accounting roles were located in the city, so the only way I could return to work was to put my babies in long day care. When I saw the Consolid8 position advertised I couldn’t believe my luck.”
Both Shellon’s boys use the onsite childcare facility and Shellon said returning to work after her second baby was a stress free experience – being able to continue breast feeding and regularly popping into the centre for a kiss and cuddle is great for her and her kids.
There are still few workplaces with on site childcare facilities, but the culture is slowly evolving - banks seem to be ahead of the trend, with many offering on sites facilities, and big businesses like CSL are also stumping up for facilities. It’s likely those that follow will see a return on their investment, retaining and attracting quality staff, and no more parents arriving late (and harried) and leaving early to fight traffic to pick up their kids. And if you don’t have it at your workplace – wave this article around and start lobbying!
Would you use on-site childcare? Discuss on the Essential Baby forums.