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Starbucks to kick in for babysitting while baristas serve coffee

Starbucks to kick in for babysitting while baristas serve coffee
Starbucks will provide 10 subsidized backup daycare days for employee parents for instances when regular care falls through. In-home backup child care will cost $1 an hour or $2 an hour after the fourth child. Care at a daycare center will cost $5 a day. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

After beefing up its parental leave policy this year, Starbucks Corp. will now offer subsidized child care for all its U.S. employees too.

The new benefit, a partnership with child-care provider Care.com Inc., will provide 10 subsidized backup day-care days for parents when regular care falls through. In-home backup child care will cost $1 an hour or $2 an hour after the fourth child. Care at a day-care center will cost $5 a day.

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“We felt like it was important to make this accessible,” said Ron Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks. “We wanted to have as low a possible cost.”

Unlike other Starbucks benefits, which require employees to work 20 hours before they can access them, Care@Work is available to more than 180,000 U.S. employees, regardless of how much they work.

Americans pay almost as much for child care as they do for rent, and when it falls through or there’s an unexpected day off from school or day care, a parent either has to stay home or scramble to find a solution.

Subsidized child care is a rare benefit. Only 2% of more than 3,000 employers surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management in 2018 say they help employees pay for child-care fees. Only 4% offer backup child-care services.

Retailers and restaurants have been trying to improve their perks to retain employees amid a tight labor market. Amazon.com Inc. just announced it’s boosting wages to $15 an hour in November for its current and seasonal workers. In January, Starbucks committed to spend $250 million on new employee benefits, including a pay boost for domestic workers after the federal tax overhaul.

In addition to reworking its paid parental leave program, Starbucks updated its sick leave policy this summer. Care@Work also provides backup services for workers who care for elderly family members. Over the last few years, employers have also started offering more benefits for employees to care for their sick and aging relatives, as millennials, the largest share of the workforce, begin caring for their aging boomer parents.

Benefits that make it easier to juggle work and parenting can help employers keep working parents from jumping ship. Patagonia said it has 25% lower turnover with employees who put their kids in an on-site day-care program. As the labor market has tightened, more companies have started offering paid parental leave.

For Starbucks, child care is the next frontier. The company may be open to broader based child-care benefits in the future too, Crawford said.

“This is a need we see in America today,” Crawford said. “Working parents need support for those days when stuff happens.”

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