Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City child care goes corporate

Kids & Company only open to members

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LAPTOP? Check. Smartphone? Check. Diaper bag? Check. Baby? Double-check.

Young parents who want or need to get back into the workforce will have a new option for child care in the coming days -- provided their companies are clients of Kids & Company.

The Toronto-based organization is preparing to christen its first corporate child-care location in Winnipeg to look after the offspring of employees of the Manitoba Bar Association, CIBC, Bank of Montreal, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Canadian Pacific Railway and several dozen other companies.

Victoria Sopik, CEO of Kids & Company, cautioned corporate child care is different from what most Manitobans are used to. Working for a company that is a Kids & Company client is similar to belonging to a fitness club or Costco.

"If you're a member, you can come and use it. If you aren't, you can't."

Kids & Company recently moved into an 8,000-square-foot building on Fort Street in which it will house 95 infants and young children. Sopik was also planning to scout for some south-end real estate while she was in town for Thursday's grand opening.

There may be sticker shock for some new parents, however. Because corporate child care doesn't receive any government subsidies, the cost per day will range from $50 to $70 per child (infants are more expensive), which is considerably higher than traditional daycare centres.

There are benefits, however. Sopik said its centre has classrooms and spaces for play, eating lunch or having diapers changed. Its "rigorous" curriculum includes French, sign language, two hours of daily physical activity and an art program.

And if a young mother starts to suffer separation anxiety or feel guilty once she's sitting at her desk, no worries. By simply logging on to a secure website via her computer or smartphone, Kids & Company's web cameras will enable her to check in on her son or daughter.

While child-care services don't have the same profile as salary, bonuses and share ownership in an employee's compensation package, they are increasingly used in the corporate world to both attract and retain people.

Gabriella Zillmer, senior vice-president of human resources at BMO Financial Group, said the bank understands the importance of family to its employees.

"We value easy and flexible solutions. It's good for employees, because it helps them manage the unexpected when other arrangements fall through," she said.

Kids & Company has 40 locations across the country but will hit 50 in the next year, Sopik said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2012 B3

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