Going to work with mom and dad

The Prague Post

Company hopes to start preschools close to businesses

Working parents, especially those with young children, have a constant worry: Who will take care of my child during the day? What happens if they get sick? What happens if I have to work late? A newly formed organization, KIDS Company Praha, hopes to alleviate some of these burdensome questions by offering businesses around Prague the chance to establish preschools exclusively for employee kids.

“In the Czech Republic, there is a big discussion right now about the lack of day care and preschools, plus we are having a baby boom,” explains KIDS Director Markéta Frank. “Plus, there is no care for children under 3 years of age. It’s a big problem for employers, because moms must stay home for three years because there is no possibility of professional care.”

KIDS Company Praha formed last spring as a partnership between a local Czech-German kindergarten and von Laer Stiftung, a German education foundation that specializes in early childhood care. In addition to expanding its Czech-German preschool in Prague 2, KIDS hopes to start a number of schools for interested businesses in the near future. The concept is a relatively new one for the Czech Republic, and KIDS hopes it takes off with a bang.

Frank says there are a number of advantages for parents and for employers to offer this perk to their employees.

“Parents feel safe leaving their children, since it is with their company, plus there are financial advantages, as the child care is financed by their place of employment,” she notes. “The preschools are near the company so there is no commuting, plus companies have satisfied employees because they offer professional care for their [employees’] children.”

Frank says KIDS has already introduced the concept to several companies that are interested in the proposal. Frank notes that many say they wish their female employees could come back to work faster after having a baby.

“It’s less expensive to have a company preschool than to hire and train new employees,” Frank says. “Plus, employee retainment is better.”

For its part, Von Laer Stiftung has contributed a lot of knowledge on these issues, based on its experiences with the German business market and how things are run there.

“Many companies [in Germany] are opening their own kindergartens and adapting them to the needs of their employees,” Frank explains. “There companies can write-off the cost of childcare, but in the Czech Republic, the tax laws are unclear.”

Frank says the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Finance Ministry are working on clarifying these issues and trying to work out the volume of tax relief. This initiative could make it easier for more company child day care to be set up. But, until the law gets straightened out, Frank is unsure if any companies will commit to their own school. Once they do, though, Frank says, they could have a preschool up and running in just a few months.

“The most difficult thing is to find space,” she says. “If the company can provide space, it’s easier, as it is not difficult to find teachers and prepare the rooms.”

Finding a good location, though, is not always easy. Frank says if the company is situated in an industrial area, it might not be the best for children, but a company in a big office park might have the space. She says one of the most important considerations is to make sure the school is close to the business location so that parents wouldn’t have to worry about commuting far.

“You have satisfied parents who can easily combine work and childcare, and employers [as a result] have employees who can concentrate on their jobs and not worry about who is caring for their children,” Frank says.

Currently, KIDS offers its services to for 15,000 Kč ($980) per child per month. The cost could fluctuate, Frank says, depending on whether the company wants to include transportation, language classes or sports activity options.

In other news, the Czech-German preschool affiliated with KIDS is also undergoing a bit of a transformation. In September, it will move to a new site in Prague 2, with twice the capacity of its old space.

Frank says the organization’s method of language teaching is unique in that they only have native speakers speaking with the children. The day is split into speaking German in the morning and Czech in the afternoon. Frank says this helps the children identify which language to speak with each teacher, and the school has seen “big language progression through listening immersion.”

It’s not just Czech and German kids who attend class here, though. Frank says the student body is a mix of children from around the world.

“We have French, Serbian, Italian children — it’s multi-cultural,” Frank says. “This introduces children to other languages and cultures. They learn tolerance from a very young age.”

The school is stretching its opening hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Staffers will also be on call for in-home care during the week and weekends.