Workplace Day Care Hit Hard by Pandemic

For the past eight years, Centene Corporation in Tyler has offered its employees a benefit most other businesses do not: onsite child care.

Providing that care not only attracts applicants but gives parent employees a sense of security knowing their children are close by.

By the end of the year, however, that option will no longer be available.

As more parents work from home, Centene Corporation in Tyler is closing its child care doors. 📷 courtesy Tyler Paper

“This is a great company, and it’s just a change in the business world, and I think this is probably happening a lot,” said Tim Hazlett, regional manager for Bright Horizons, the company which provides child care in a partnership with Centene.

Which change? Due to the COVID pandemic, fewer people are working in an office setting.

Centene, a managed healthcare provider, has offered child care within its branches across the country for nearly 20 years, Hazlett said.

At Centene — located on Earl Campbell Parkway in Tyler — the child care facility has room for 64 children, from infants to preschool. It is the only Centene location to close its child care facility.

Hazlett estimated that hundreds of employees already have stopped working at the Tyler campus, but the child care center is being kept open longer so employees could find another place for child care.

He said employees who previously commuted to the Tyler campus now work from home and find it inconvenient to continue using the company’s child care center.

“It doesn’t make sense for someone living in the Longview community to drive to Tyler and back to come get their children. That would be crazy,” he said. “A lot of people who are working are not using the day care center anymore, and they are using mom and dad or another family member. This has happened in the day care world in general.”

Andria Horton, executive director of Champions for Children in Tyler, supports the idea of businesses offering child care for their employees.

She said having an onsite child care center benefits the company and employees.

“If they (children) get hurt, the employee doesn’t have to take a whole day off to go see about them. You can just go check on them and if they are okay, and go back to work,” Horton said. “I think it has the potential to be a great culture-building incentive for people to come to work for you and for people to stay,” she said.

Hazlett said he worked at a Kansas City hospital when his children were young, and his employer provided a child care center.

He said companies like Centene made a commitment to invest in child care as a benefit for employees.

“We are always looking for companies like Centene to invest in childcare centers,” he said.

In Tyler, city employees now have the option of bringing their baby (4 weeks to six months old) to work with them under a pilot program called Infants at Work.

The program is designed to reduce employee turnover, boost morale and show employees they are valued.

Becky Bell, a native of Texarkana, Texas is an award winning writer residing in Magnolia, Arkansas. Bell has more than 20 years of journalism experience and graduated with a journalism degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.

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