12 Big Companies Join To Help Provide Dependent Care
NEW YORK (AP) _ A dozen leading U.S. corporations have committed millions of dollars to establish or expand programs to care for employees’ children or elderly relatives, people familiar with the project say.
The unprecedented effort, not yet announced, reflects the growing role of women in the labor force and the absence of government aid for working couples with dependents.
The project, in its final planning stages, is a sort of ″corporate America Peace Corps,″ said Burke Stinson, a spokesman for American Telephone & Telegraph Co., a participant.
Eventually 60 to 80 companies could contribute, but the 12 blue-chip corporations form the core and will provide most of the funding, said a source close to the project who gave details on condition of anonymity.
The idea was conceived by International Business Machines Corp., which enlisted American Express Co., Exxon Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp., Travelers Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Amoco Corp., NationsBank Corp., the Allstate unit of Sears Roebuck and Co., Motorola Inc. and AT&T, the source said.
″IBM has met with lots of companies around the country since last year to explore and discuss the possibility of collaborating and creating partnerships to fund dependent care facilities,″ said IBM spokesman John Boudreaux.
He would not elaborate on specifics of the project.
So far, about $20 million has been committed, the source said. Each company will decide its own level of involvement, with no maximum and no minimum contribution, the source said.
The project, with the working title of American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care, is scheduled to be launched in September.
Employees’ ability to care for dependents is a major work-place problem and a critical business issue, said American Express spokeswoman Audrey Jonckheer.
″If an employee is responsible for a sick child or elderly relative that person becomes less productive, more preoccupied,″ Jonckheer said. ″If we can eliminate the worry it makes them more productive.″
Labor Department research found that at least 57 percent of women with children under age 6 work outside the home, versus 12 percent in 1950. By the next century, about two-thirds of new workers are expected to be women, and 75 percent of them will become pregnant during their working years.
In addition, about 40 percent of workers expect to be responsible for their aging parents in the next five years, according to the New York-based Families and Work Institute.
Recognizing that trend - and in the absence of government aid - more companies are spending more money on programs to help employees balance work and family, Working Mother magazine said in a survey late last year.
″Dependent care is undeniably the wave of the present and shows no sign of diminishing in the 1990s,″ said AT&T’s Stinson.
″As a collaborative we can do more than as individual players.″
Under the plan, each corporation will decide where and how it wants to act. It might contribute to new facilities or programs, or expand existing care centers, public and private, the source said.
Any new centers or programs will be run by independent operators and must be financially self-sufficient after the initial investment, the source said.
Employees will pay for the care itself, although some companies may subsidize the cost.
Among the cities to be targeted are New York, Washington, Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, as well as Austin, Texas; Norfolk Va.; Greensboro, N.C.; and Boca Raton, Fla., the source said.
Several companies, including IBM, have been involved in smaller collaborative efforts at the local level.
″When this comes about, it will be the largest employee dependent care program of its kind,″ said Barry Wanger, spokesman for the Boston consulting firm Work-Family Directions, which is helping to develop the project.
″It’s a significant effort - a real collaboration,″ he said.