Want to stand out from the crowd in attracting and retaining quality employees? Offer childcare-related benefits to working parents.

That’s the key takeaway from a survey of working parents conducted last month by the SLO Chamber’s Business Council showing that childcare in San Luis Obispo County is nearly impossible to find — and prohibitively expensive if you do.

Providing family-friendly benefits isn’t just good for working parents and their children, it’s also good for business and the bottom line, says Wendy Wendt, executive director of First 5 SLO County, who laid out steps any business can take at April’s Good Morning SLO (see video below).

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents believe their employers could do more to help them address childcare needs. That’s a critical finding in light of several parents who indicated that they switched jobs or left the workforce entirely because of childcare challenges.

At the top of the wish list: Financial subsidies to help pay for child-care, followed closely by on-site child care.childcare surveyAlmost 60 percent of respondents said their employers offer flexible schedules, the most common benefit for working parents, according to survey results. But that ranked lowest on the scale of what benefits would be most valuable, behind several others including emergency/sick care and employer-provided back-up care.

Nearly 300 parents from around SLO County took the survey, most of whom have children under age 5. About half work at companies with more than 100 employees, with the rest spread across smaller businesses. Three-fourths of respondents work in the city of SLO, though more than half live elsewhere.childcare surveyMany respondents shared their struggles in finding infant care, describing a stressful process that led some to leave or switch careers.

“We just had a baby this year and had no idea how hard it would be to find affordable and available childcare,” said one respondent. “I now don’t work in order to care for my son.”

“Cost is a huge factor,” commented another respondent who pays more than $2,400 per month for child care, more than double the mortgage payment on the family’s condo. “We really want to buy a house with a yard but can’t afford one right now with our childcare costs.”

Want to get more involved? First Five is hosting a “Where’s the Care?” town hall meeting May 29 to examine the challenges and spur solutions around childcare availability and affordability.