Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Omaha Firms Develop Emergency Child-Care Program for Workers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Omaha Firms Develop Emergency Child-Care Program for Workers

Article excerpt

OMAHA, Neb. -- Bonnie Naylor had to get to work to close the end- of-the-month accounts at ConAgra Inc. Her husband had important meetings all day. It was the worst time for their 4-year-old to come down with the flu.

So Naylor placed a call, and a baby sitter for little Nathan arrived promptly, lined up through Naylor's employer.

"He couldn't go to day care, he wasn't sick enough to go to the doctor and we needed to get to work," recalled Naylor, an account coordinator at ConAgra. Naylor turned to Rest Easy, an emergency child-care and elder-care program created and funded by five major Omaha employers -- ConAgra, Union Pacific Railroad, Mutual of Omaha, Commercial Federal Bank and First Bank -- for their 12,000 employees. As many as 2 percent of them are expected to use the service, which began this summer. The program, one of several similar plans around the country, is operated by the Visiting Nurses Association and sends a trained sitter to the employee's home to take care of a sick child or elderly parent for up to 12 hours. Paul Graven, vice president of human relations for ConAgra's frozen foods division, said the company expects to spend about $10,000 on the program. But he believes the costs will be balanced by increased productivity. "It's good from an employee relations standpoint... and companies can benefit from an efficiency standpoint as well," he said. "This way employees are available during critical periods of time and they are not delayed as a result of day-care and elder-care issues." It costs $10.50 to $14 an hour for an aide to come to an employee's home, and each company picks up a different share of the cost. ConAgra and Mutual, for example, reimburse employees for 75 percent of the cost. Many day-care centers won't accept a child who is running a fever. That was Naylor's problem. In some places around the country, there are emergency day-care centers where a working parent can bring a sick child. "But dressing a sick child and taking them outside? …

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