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Company day cares get EU subsidies

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Employee childcare gets another green light. Prague is going to distribute EU money to firms planning to establish day cares. Other Czech cities will soon have the same opportunity.

The programme was launched in the beginning of May, and city hall has not yet received any applications. But there is time. “We’re expecting to get most of the proposals in June,” the city’s Karolína Špačková told online daily Tý

Companies that would like to establish kindergartens for employees’ children must submit proposals. “They can ask the city hall for help if they need to,” Špačková said. “We’ll tell them what should be included.”

In February, Raiffeisenbank became the country’s first private company to open a childcare center. “It’s used mainly by mothers ,but fathers who work here are also interested,” bank spokesman Tomáš Kofroň said. Žiraffka – the name came from the employees – can care for up to 60 children. So far only one-third of the capacity has been filled.

Motivation behind day cares
Reasons to set up a preschool were clear: “We’d like to make it easier for the women when returning from maternity leave to work,” Kofroň said. Employees pay only CZK 1,300 a month for meals, while the remaining amount, about CZK 13,000, is paid by the bank.

The facility is located near the bank’s headquarters. It is open all year from 7am to 6pm. The bank sends money to regional kindergartens to support mothers who work outside Prague.

Setting up company childcare is not cheap. The costs go up to millions of crowns. “We can handle organization, from contracting teachers and finding spaces to running daily operations,” said Renata Schmidová from Gold Life Service. The offer from city hall to provide money from European funds was therefore a welcome move.

The same programme should eventually be implemented on the national level. “The goal is to improve the employees’ position on the labor market,” Špačková said, adding that the approval process is long but waiting for it is well worth it. Selected applicants will get CZK 1-6 million to set up preschools.

Does tax relief help?
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has prepared a reform concerning the establishment of company kindergartens and mini-day cares. The plan got backing from the Finance Ministry, which has suggested offering tax relief for companies that run childcare centres. “It’d certainly help expand these facilities,” Kofroň said.

“The advantage of the system is that parents can return to work earlier [from parental leaves], are close to their children and save time they would otherwise spend commuting to a distant day care facility,” according to Kindergarten, a company that helped set up the bank’s childcare centre. These are considered above-standard services compared to state-run preschools that only accept children from the age of 3 – and most of those are already filled. The Kindergarten facilities accept children from 18 months old, and the minimum will become 6 months in September.

Day care in hospitals
Information has appeared recently that hospitals could also start offering childcare for employees. The Health Ministry wants to give teaching hospitals subsidies to set up day cares.

Prague’s Thomayer Hospital has operated its preschool for more than 50 years and has only received positive feedback.

Company day cares are common practice in European countries such as Germany, France and Britain. Other Czech companies, including Unipetrol and ČSOB, are considering establishing childcare facilities.

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