Workplace daycare a rarity in B.C.

Working moms and dads in B.C.'s Lower Mainland scramble each year to find convenient and affordable daycare, and not many are finding it at their workplaces.

Part 1 in CBC's series 'The Daycare Dilemma' looks for the elusive workplace daycares

Working moms and dads in B.C.'s Lower Mainland scramble each year to find convenient and affordable daycare, and not many are finding it at their workplaces.

Ritchie Bros. auctioneers has been providing stress relief for some of their employees by building indoor and outdoor daycare and day camp spaces into its new headquarters in Burnaby's Glenlyon business park in 2009.

But at-work daycare is still a very rare find for most Metro Vancouver area parents.

Andrea Firmani, a nurse at St. Paul's hospital in downtown Vancouver, is a mom of two and is planning to go back to work in January, but she hasn't yet solved her own daycare dilemma.

"Where is my baby going to go when I go to work?" she asked.

Other hospitals in the Lower Mainland do have onsite daycare, but a petition to bring one into St. Paul's failed. Hospital administration said it has limited space, and a tight budget.

Firmani said that going back to work for long shifts of up to 13 hours without onsite daycare means her youngest will be paying the price. With a daycare at St. Paul's, Firmani would have fewer worries and could maintain closer contact.

"I could probably breastfeed her longer, probably go on my break and see her," she said.

According to Paul Kershaw, an associate professor of early learning at UBC and family policy expert, most companies don't provide daycare for children of workers simply because they aren't equipped to meet the criteria for daycare spaces.

"Oftentimes companies don't have the numbers of staff to really make it worthwhile, so they don't have those economies of scale," he said.

Behind a grey concrete exterior, Ritchie Bros. auctioneers has a colourful and convenient corporate daycare - a rarity in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. (CBC)

"They don't necessarily have the expertise to run those kind of programs, nor do they want to have to pay to get the human resources expertise in to do it."

Kershaw said that the business community should nevertheless be working with parents to solve daycare arrangement problems, in order to keep those parents in the workforce.

He said he's already convinced the Surrey Board of Trade to support a push for a province-wide $10-a-day daycare plan.

With files from the CBC's Steve Lus