I’ve just watched a BBC two programme entitled “Babies in the Office” which saw a London mini cab firm Addison Lee trial a Babies at Work scheme. They invited staff to bring their children to work, initially for a trial day and then for a month’s trial.
The idea being that if staff could bring their children to work there would be benefits for all concerned including:
- Saving on childcare costs
- Enabling parents to spend more time with their child
- Enabling parents (especially mums) to actually come back to work after having children (a quarter of women who go off on maternity don’t actually return to work!)
- Save the company money on recruitment costs for recruiting and training new staff when others leave for childcare reasons
- Instil a sense of loyalty and productivity in staff
It was a really, really interesting programme and I can see both the positives and negatives that have come from it.
The average cost of full-time childcare in the UK is £385 / £5,000 a year and a study by The Daycare Trust recently showed that some working parents are paying up to £15,000 a year on childcare costs, with nursery costs having risen on average by nearly 6% in a year, whilst wages remain stagnant. With cuts to child tax credits, and a report from Aviva last year also stating that “The expense of childcare could make it more cost-effective for some parents to give up work and stay at home”, schemes like this could mean the world of difference to the modern UK family.
The staff taking part in the scheme ranged from call takers in the call centre and administrative assistants to managers so those participating had really varied types of workloads, all with their different pressures, and the company “baby proofed” the offices ahead of the scheme and provided facilities such as nappy changing areas and feeding rooms.
The trial did have it’s high’s and lows and it wasn’t always easy for the children, parents and colleagues. Some days went better than others and if a child was over-tired, ill or under stimulated you can imagine the consequences. It seemed that the older the child (2+) the tougher it was but this is obviously because they need more attention and are more mobile.
There was a big variation on people’s views on the scheme initially, with many, especially male colleagues, very unsure of the scheme. However as the trial progressed it was interesting to see the change in views and the initial sceptics holding their hands up to admit their views had changed.
Babies at Work schemes have been running for some time in the USA and there are currently 170 companies running the scheme.
The Arizona State Department of Health runs a babies at work scheme. Will Humble, the director of the agency says: “We’ve invested a lot of effort in that middle management team and a lot of them are women in their thirties and they’re having babies and we can’t afford to lose them. What we gain is a long term increase in our productivity and we build and continue to reinforce the commitment we have with our employees, which helps us in the long run to retain those critical employees that may have made another choice.” (BBC – Eight Radical Solutions to the Childcare Issue)
I think that is an excellent and refreshing way for companies to think and frankly more companies should have that view! However I am also inclined to think that such schemes will have limitations in some environments, depending on people’s jobs and I can understand some parents wishing to have their parental / home life and work life separate. However I think to run a scheme like this and give people the choice is fantastic.
Addison Lee actually decided to introduce the scheme on a permanent basis and to combat the issue of older toddlers they have introduced an on-site nursery. One member of staff said it would save her £1,000 a month!!! I for one look forward to hearing how it goes and hope this is a step forward. In this time of austerity and with financial support for families being slashed something needs to radically change and I commend Addison lee for taking such a leap of faith! I would love to hear your views? What would being able to take your baby to work mean to you? Did you watch the programme? What did you think?
- Addison Lee lets staff care for their babies in the office (standard.co.uk)
- Children in the office would drive me mad (standard.co.uk)
- Eight radical solutions to the childcare issue (bbc.co.uk)
- TV review: Babies in the Office; Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man Alive; University Challenge (guardian.co.uk)
- Childcare review launched as nursery reforms urged – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Nursery fees overtaking mortgages as families’ biggest bills (telegraph.co.uk)
- Parents forced to quit work because of childcare costs (itv.com)
- Babies in the office: Who’s been sleeping on my spreadsheet? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Childcare costs soaring, official study shows (telegraph.co.uk)
- Labour: Help needed on childcare (bbc.co.uk)