Boonton-based accounting firm SKC & Co. reopened its office July 1. It was a way the firm could help its clients with extended tax filings as well as documents related to the Paycheck Protection Program.
When it reopened, Managing Partner Sarah Krom made sure the firm thought about its employees, too. It also reopened the employee day care opportunity the company offers in a facility that’s right next door.
At a time when families are struggling with child care options — Gov. Phil Murphy authorized $250 million in subsidies in an effort to help just last week — Krom wanted to ensure her employees were being taken care of.
It’s an option she has offered employees since 2017 — but one that is taking on new meaning during the pandemic.
“The feedback from the moms about COVID is they feel much more comfortable bringing the kids back to our day care than to a day care that has more kids in it, because ours is more isolated and controlled,” she said.
Dubbed “Little Stars,” the child care began when many accountants were expecting children and facing the conflict of work and family, Krom said.
“We observed that (conflict) as a leadership team and talked amongst ourselves and said, ‘OK, we’ve got to create an environment here that supports them through this transition,’” she said.
The program is not free. Krom estimates it’s about 25% cheaper than what mothers would pay at a private day care.
“It’s basically a 60/40 cost sharing,” she said. “SKC pays about 40-45% of the cost, and the moms kind of split the difference. For SKC, it’s probably anywhere from a $25-30,000 cost to us a year.”
The center has security cameras and gives parents an app that allows them to check the cameras on their phones when they aren’t in the office.
Caitlin Smith, an accountant who has a 3-year-old and a 15-month-old, is especially thankful for the setup.
“My husband and I are both accountants,” she said. “We really needed someone to help us with our kids. Especially clients really, really needed us during COVID with all the PPP loan applications and helping them, you know, making sure their businesses survive, they were really dependent on their accountants.”
The closeness, Smith said, meant she didn’t have to miss out on childhood moments.
“The day care managers spoil us with lots of pictures and videos,” she said. “I saw my son take his first four steps at home, but he really walked at the day care and she (the day care manager) got it on video.”
The close proximity — there’s a separate door that connects the office to the child care — also makes breastfeeding possible for those who need it.
Krom said being a firm of 28 employees was helpful — especially during times when groups need to be kept small.
“I think one of the things that allowed us to be able to do this was the fact that we are small,” she said. “We have the luxury of limiting the number of kids to five in the day care, which means we can stay under the state-required standards.”
Krom admits that the guidelines have limited what the company can offer.
“For any day, the limit is five children at a time,” she said. “Otherwise, we have to comply with the state standards, which we have no issue with complying to, but some are just not feasible for us. A good example is we have to have a 20-by-20 foot fenced-in playground space if we have more than five kids. And we just can’t do that; we don’t own the building.”
SKC also has limited the service, depending on the workload at the firm, Krom said.
“Right now, it’s three days a week,” she said. “At the height, it was five days a week for a couple of months, depending on the needs of the moms.”
That being said, being next door has an advantage at the end of a shift. Employees don’t have to race across town to get their kids. And, sometimes, they can stay late, too.
“The day care director is extremely flexible, so she’ll stay 10-12 hours during the busy season,” Krom said.