On May 26th 2008, the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT) held an innovative and critical symposium on CHILD CARE SOLUTIONS FOR WORKING PARENTS – A CALL FOR PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTOR LEADERSHIP.
The symposium was held at the Hyatt Hotel in Port of Spain and was attended by more than 100 individuals from a wide cross section of industries and professions. The feature speaker was Mrs Cheryl Blackman, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Other panelists included:
- Martin de Gannes, General Manager, Human Resources, Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago
- Sandra Grey, HR Relationship Manager, NCB Jamaica
- Karen Moore, Child Psychologist
- Tricia Khan Als, Senior Tax Analyst, Ernst and Young
AFETT intended that the symposium would highlight the benefits of establishing child care and homework centres in the workplace, as well as highlight other child care solutions, to support the many challenges faced by working parents.
As highlighted by the Government in the 2007 budget, these solutions are essential for the development of the domestic social sector and improved national productivity, as the impact on parents is directly linked to the health of families and the economy as a whole.
Workplace demographics have changed considerably in the past decade, and include:
- More single parent homes leading to increased demands on employees, particularly working mothers.
- Less extended family members present at home.
- Rural migration which means that there is movement from rural to urban communities and families are now separated and no longer live in one area or even in the same country.
- More competition leading to more demands for “limited” time.
- Influence of globalization changing influences and exposures on family life.
- Children’s lives are also more demanding => school, ‘extra’ lessons and each child doing extra-curricular activities outside of school.
- More supervision of children is required. With all the potentially dangerous exposures, they cannot be left at home, un supervised to play or surf the internet alone.
- Professional & senior management jobs are more demanding of parent’s time and energy, leaving little if any time and energy for family matters.
- Work-life balance is under constant pressure.
Locally, parents face many specific challenges including increased traffic. The result? More time on the road and less quality time with families or friends
Escalating crime levels fuelling feelings of insecurity, fear, erosion of trust and threats to children’s safety.
Working parents also encounter difficulty finding child care facilities that:
- Can be easily accessed.
- Are affordable.
- Provide a suitable and safe environment including outdoor and play areas.
- Employ suitably trained and screened child care providers.
NCB Jamaica has clearly aligned the provision of a company sponsored child care facility not only to their Corporate Human Resource and Business strategies, but to their Bank’s sustainable competitive advantage and their country’s nation building efforts –
Role of Early Childhood Development Centre
Recruit and retain high quality and empowered employees
Pivotal in attracting and retaining top quality talent as no other comparable financial institution has this type of infrastructure in place for staff employees.
Run the business efficiently
Majority of the workforce composed of Generation X and Y* females, who reduce customer facing time (and therefore money) when absorbed with child care challenges including transportation.
Engage in nation building.
Jamaica’s future lies in the hands of its children, so by extension, NCB is investing in a ‘better’ tomorrow.
(*Generation X describes individuals born from 1965 to 1982. Generation Y (sometimes referred to as "the Millennials") describes individuals born from 1982 to 1997. WIKIPEDIA)
NCB Jamaica considers their Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) as integral to employee engagement and talent management, as is articulated in their mission statement:
“To provide world class care and an appropriate learning environment for the
children of our valued staff, to allow them to perform optimally on the job with the assurance that their precious children are very well cared for.”
The ECDC at NCB has proved so hugely popular with staff, that there is now a waiting list.
The net result of this initiative which has positioned NCB as an employer of choice in the Jamaica market is improved staff retention, a critical issue in a tight labor market. This, combined with increased productivity (fewer work hours are lost due to extended lunch breaks or early departures by employees) are some of the tangible business benefits experienced by the Bank.
Internationally there are varied responses to the increasing child care concerns of working parents. Canada offer universal child care benefits, and in Europe, corporate and governmental policies include flexible working hours, child care subsidies and extended maternity/ paternity leave.
Japanese legislation ensures the welfare of workers who take care of children or other family members, by promoting continuous employment through the establishment of a system for child care leave, family care leave, compassionate leave to take care of a sick child, as well as by prescribing measures that employers must take concerning working hours, etc. All for the sole purpose of facilitating the care of children and other family members.
Dr. Karen Moore commented that the hours between 3-6 p.m. on school days (referred to by law enforcement officials in the US as a "danger zone") are the prime time for violent juvenile crime; this is also the time period during which kids are most likely to become victims of violent crime, be involved in all kinds of accidents, experiment with drugs or alcohol, and become pregnant. Teens who are unsupervised during after school hours are 37% more likely to become teen parents. Working mothers report that 3 -6 p.m. is the time of day when they most worry about their children's safety.
After school programs help young people succeed by providing academic support and the chance to form meaningful relationships with adults from their community, and by encouraging them to get involved in their neighborhood through service projects. This support, these relationships and the benefits to the community create a mutually beneficial relationship of immeasurable value.
Closer to home, in Jamaica that Government is pro actively involved in supporting child care solutions through:
- Early Childhood Commission Act (2003) which is responsible for early childhood development in Jamaica, bringing all policies and standards together under one umbrella, and
- Child Care and Protection Act (2004) which monitors the adoption of international child care conventions locally, and aims to develop and promote a position on international children’s issues.
Whilst we applaud the Government’s efforts in offering incentives for the establishment of Child Care Facilities in Trinidad and Tobago and welcome the focus on ‘Caring Society’ and ‘Innovative People’ indentified in Vision 2020, AFETT is recommending further steps be taken, to ensure safe and constructive environments are being provided for our nation’s children , including:
- Establishment of standards and criteria for all child care providers, whether state or private. Including wages, educational requirements, medical and good character screening.
- Regular training to international standards.
- Monitoring of all facilities and staff.
- Implementing legislation to (1) protect children at child care facilities and (2) prosecute child care providers who do not meet required standards.
- Clear determination or guidelines for definitions of a ‘facility’.
- Deductibility from corporation tax liabilities of expenses incurred in the repair and maintenance of such facilities.
- Deductibility from corporation tax liabilities of salary, security and other operating costs incurred in staffing such facilities.
- Establishment of standards for all child care providers, whether state or private, including regular training to international standards and monitoring of all facilities to ensure safe and constructive environments are being provided to our nation’s children.
- Using the Ministry of the Attorney General model to implement child care facilities at all State and Public Sector offices.
As this is an issue which impacts our nation at all levels, we further recommend that no less than four (4) Ministries become Champions for this cause, namely:
- Ministry of Social Development
- Ministry of Community Development
- Ministry of Labour (particularly for changes in working hours.)
- Ministry of Education (Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Again, we applaud the government’s steps in trying to alleviate the problem facing many working parents today through the promotion of Child Care Facilities. We encourage you as well to assist in supporting other avenues that can potentially relieve some of the burden for parents while at the same time improving the nation’s productivity.
- As the largest employer in the country we ask you to demonstrate leadership in this issue by building your employment framework policies directed towards:
- flexi-time / staggered hours
- compressed work weeks
- part-time / career breaks
- job sharing
- implement incentives geared towards companies that implement the initiatives above and demonstrate cost savings / productivity enhancements as a result through tax breaks or grants.
- We also recognize that the government as a policy maker and driver already has several initiatives through the various ministries geared towards the support and improvement of lives of its citizenry. We do however note a gap relating to the provision of support/networking services relating to general parenting and we offer the following ideas:
- expanding programs to include general parenting and child care networks and support services either through the Ministry of Education and the PTA or through the Ministry of Social Development
- provision of child care assistance either in the form of tax breaks/credits or grants to low income dual income families particularly for children 3mths to 5 yrs
- provision of tax breaks/credits or grants to companies who are unable to construct a facility would like to:
i. create partnerships with existing facility to subsidise their operational costs and therefore provide an avenue for childcare for their staff
ii. subsidise the cost of child care for their employees through BIK or allowances.
The Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago stands ready to partner with the government and private sector stakeholders in implementing the recommendations detailed above and looks forward to further discussions on the issue of Child Care Solutions for Working Parents.
The AFETT Research and Public Advocacy Committee can be contacted through the Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 868-354-7130/7131 or through any of the following members: