Latest employer perk in a tight labor market: Bring your baby to work

Workplaces are increasingly willing to allow pets in the office — at least occasionally — in an effort to relieve employee stress and improve mental health.

But what about bringing your baby to work? It’s a much rarer benefit that’s now being offered by Milford-based manufacturer Bead Industries as a way to help working mothers who may be burnt out and stressed by the responsibilities of being a parent and working full-time. , according to CEO Jill Mayer.

It is also an advantage adopted to remain competitive in an ultra-tight labor market, and where the high cost and reduced access to childcare services have forced women out of the labor market at much higher rates. higher than men in recent years.

There were 110,000 job vacancies in Connecticut at the end of March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a dire situation for some employers who have been forced to take numerous measures to attract and retain talent, including raising wages and offering more flexibility like remote or hybrid work.

“That kind of creative edge allows us to compete with bigger manufacturers like Sikorsky and Electric Boat,” said Mayer, who has run the 108-year-old family business founded by his great-great-grandfather since 2015. “They can offer salaries that we can’t match, but we can do it. While we always want to offer competitive salaries as close as possible to what big companies offer, we believe our unique benefits are what sets us apart.

vital time

Bead Industries’ family-friendly policy was passed last summer and allows new moms (or dads) to bring their babies to work for four months after maternity leave.

The company offers workers 10 to 12 weeks of leave after the birth of a child.

Mayer said three mothers — a human resources coordinator, a quality technician and a production planner — are currently taking advantage of the benefit, and a fourth employee plans to bring her baby to the office later this year.

“These four months with the baby here in labor are a vital time for this baby and build trust in the parent,” Mayer said. “I think this is an example of the flexibility and accommodations we can make for our employees. As a family business, we can make special accommodations to enhance our workers’ experience here.

Babies are in private rooms with their mothers, who can close the door if their baby fusses or cries. If the child won’t stop crying and needs extra attention, the mother is encouraged to work from home for the rest of the day.

Co-workers can step in and monitor a baby if the mother needs to take a break, attend a meeting or run an errand, Mayer said.

The policy does not apply to all of the company’s 50 employees who work at Bead Industries’ headquarters in Milford or Cheshire. For example, machine operators who make the company’s custom connector pins for the automotive, lighting, and medical industries don’t have time to watch their kids.

Mayer said incentives such as allowing infants in the workplace increase productivity and create a happier, more collegial work environment.

Additionally, Bead Industries offers other perks like kickboxing, yoga, and company picnics.

“Offering what we do is always good for retention,” she said. “Retention always improves productivity and brings with it loyalty and an appreciation for the company.”

Child custody issues

Child-at-work policies aren’t entirely new — employers across the country have been experimenting with them for years, according to the Utah-based Parenting in the Workplace Institute.

The institute has created a database that lists about 180 US companies that have adopted the benefit in one form or another. The institute said it had registered 2,100 babies in labour.

Even state governments have bought into the policy. In 2019, the state of Vermont began allowing its state employees to bring their babies to work with written permission and following strict guidelines.

Overall, there is no clear data on the magnitude of the trend.

Mayer said the high cost of child care is one of the main reasons for offering the infant-at-work policy.

And child care issues in general have contributed to labor shortages in the United States and Connecticut, according to Beth Bye, commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.

Bye said offers like the one made by Bead Industries are “a sign of corporate desperation and a reflection of the shortage of infant/toddler care in our state. It’s a big problem.”

Bye said that in a 12-month period ending June 30, 2021, 83 licensed child care centers or group homes closed in Connecticut, contributing to the current shortage of about 50,000 child care spaces in the state.

There are 3,625 licensed child care centers in the state, well below what is needed to meet demand, Bye said.

State policy makers are trying to solve the problem. The recently approved state budget includes more than $100 million for child care support, including increasing the number of child care spaces available in the state.

“Many companies are stepping up planning for all of this and hopefully will be part of the long-term solution,” Bye said. The commissioner noted that ESPN and Lego, based in Bristol, Enfield, among others, offer on-site daycare for their workers.

“Overall, the [child care] the industry has been in crisis for two years,” Bye said. “The pandemic has really shown us how dire things are. He pointed to the financial instability of the child care industry as it fails to meet the needs of parents. The governor’s budget is a step in the right direction.