Only 2 percent of more than3,000 employers surveyed by the Society of Human ResourceManagement in 2018 say they help employees pay for childcare fees.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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After beefing up its parental leave policy this year, StarbucksCorp. will now offer subsidized childcare for all of its U.S. employees,too.

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The new benefit, a partnership with childcare provider Care.comInc., will provide 10 subsidized backup daycare days for parentsfor instances when regular care falls through. In-home backupchildcare will cost $1 an hour or $2 an hour after the 4th child.Care at a daycare center will cost $5 per day.

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Related: 7 steps for developing a family caregivingstrategy

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“We felt like it was important to make this accessible,” saidRon Crawford, vice president of benefits at Starbucks. “We wantedto have as low a possible cost.” Unlike some of Starbucks's otherbenefits, which require employees to work 20 hours before they canaccess them, Care@Work is available to more than 180,000 U.S.employees, regardless of how much they work.

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Americans pay almost as much for childcare as they do forrent, and when it falls through or there's an unexpected day offfrom school or daycare, a parent either has to stay home orscramble to find a solution.

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Subsidized childcare is a rare benefit. Only 2 percent of morethan 3,000 employers surveyed by the Society of Human ResourceManagement in 2018 say they help employees pay for childcare fees.Only 4 percent offer backup child care services.

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Retailers and restaurants have been trying to improve theirperks to retain employees amid a very tight labor market.Amazon.com Inc. just announced it's boosting wages to $15 an hourin 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 taxoverhaul.

Sick leave

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

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Benefits that make it easier to juggle work and parenting canhelp employers keep working parents from jumping ship. Patagoniahas claimed that it has 25 percent lower turnover with employeeswho put their kids in an on-site daycare program. As the labormarket has tightened, more companies have started offering paidparental leave.

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For Starbucks, childcare is the next frontier. The company maybe open to broader based childcare benefits in the future, too,Crawford said.

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

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— With assistance by Leslie Patton

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