Rescinded [2010-03-24] - Policy on Information and Referral Services for Child Care

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This document is no longer in effect. It has been archived online and is kept purely for historical purposes. For further information refer to the People Management Policy Review Project.

Policy objective

To assist employees in obtaining information on child care options (other than federally funded workplace day care centres) that will help them manage work and family responsibilities.

Policy statement

The employer supports the provision of information and referral services on child care, for employees who are parents, where such services are needed in lieu of or as a complement to federally funded workplace day care centres.


This policy applies to all departments and other portions of the Public Service listed in Part I of Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

Policy requirements

Departments which offer information and referral services for child care must do so with reference to the needs of their work force.

Departments must fund the costs of implementing and maintaining information and referral services for child care from existing budgets.

Departments must ensure that information and referral services for child care are confined to the provision of such services, with no endorsements and with legal disclaimers of liability.


Departments will implement appropriate methods to monitor the application of this policy and provide the Treasury Board Secretariat with their findings upon request.

These findings could reflect the scope of the services provided, the implementation approach selected by the department (in-house program or fee-for-use contract - sole department or consortium of departments), number of employees using the services as well as their group and level, costs incurred by the department, comments and observations.


Information and referral services for child care are services which identify diversified sources of, and options for child care, from which clients can select what best suits their needs. Such services can include: lists of available child care programs; individualized consultations; workplace parent education seminars and supervisory training in dealing with work and family related issues.


Workplace day care centres (TBM Human resources volume, chapter 4-2)


Enquiries about this policy should be referred to the responsible departmental officers who, in turn, may direct questions to:

Workplace day care policy analyst
General Personnel Policy Development and Compensation Division
Personnel Policy Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

Appendix A - Guide to information and referral services for child care

1. Introduction

Research indicates that one factor that demonstrably reduces the apparent conflict between family and work is the provision of information and referral services. Treasury Board therefore encourages departments to develop information and referral services for child care. Departments are authorized to allot funds from existing budgets for information and referral services for child care as per Sections 11 & 12 of the Financial Administration Act. This guide briefly describes information and referral services and outlines issues which departments might consider in order to evaluate whether or not to pursue the initiative.

2. Definition

Information and referral services identify sources of child care for employees. Such services can include for example, data banks of child care programs, arranging individualized consultations, organizing workplace parent education seminars and providing supervisory training in dealing with work and family issues in the workplace.

3. Scope of information and referral services

Types of service

Depending on the needs identified by its work force, the department must decide whether the services to be offered will include a data bank for employees, with search and retrieval capabilities exclusively, or if referral services (i.e. names of care providers and consulting services) will be offered in addition to a data bank.

Licensed care and-or unlicensed care

The department must decide whether the information and referral services will offer licensed or unlicensed services or both. Users who prefer to use licensed care arrangements regard licensing as a form of consumer protection, since licensed centres are government-supervised, thus ensuring that minimum standards are being met. Provincial licensing requirements, training and qualifications of staff, program design and physical layout are some of the specifics that protect consumers who decide to use licensed care.

Other users may, however, decide to use unlicensed care facilities which are generally less expensive than licensed facilities and, in some locations, may be the only option available. The department should inform employees that unlicensed care facilities do not necessarily meet minimum provincial standards and are not required to do so. Therefore no information is available on the minimum standard of quality of care assured by unlicensed care facilities.

When providing information and referral services, the department must make it clear to employees that these services comprise only listings of available care facilities and resources. It is the individual employee and not the department, who selects the care provider. The department may choose to provide employees with a guide to visiting a day care facility, outlining some of the quality indicators to look for. The department may obtain guides of this nature from provincial government day care services.

If the department decides to offer information and referral services to employees, whether licensed or unlicensed, the liability associated with each type of arrangement should be fully researched.

Providers of service

The department may choose to organize the delivery of information and referral services in a variety of ways. The following table is meant to reflect the possible combinations.


In house Service

Fee for service

Departmental consortia



Single department



Departments that form a consortium model share the workload, costs and risks involved. This arrangement may vary depending on the type of service desired, the number of employees to be served and existing community services. Examples of an in-house program and a fee-for-service contract are provided in section 8 of this guide.

4. Features of information and referral services

Information regarding the following types of child care services can be provided to employees:


  • day care centres
  • nursery schools
  • registries of private care providers
  • private home day care agencies
  • babysitting registries, cooperatives and agencies
  • nanny agencies
  • private schools

Temporary care

  • school-age programs (before and after school hours, lunch, pedagogical development days, school and statutory holidays)
  • parent relief programs
  • drop-a-tot programs
  • drop-in centres
  • care for sick children
  • emergency care programs
  • camps - summer & winter

Counselling services

  • parent-child counselling services
  • teen-single parent programs
  • community support centres
  • financial information (subsidies)
  • tax information
  • child abuse

Programs for children with special needs

  • nurseries
  • day care services
  • parent relief
  • health clinics
  • schools

Home support services

  • toy lending libraries
  • parent resource libraries
  • transportation services to and from care site


  • support groups for new parents
  • overview of service options

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. For example, information and referral services for child care may also:

  • make suggestions on how to select care;
  • provide assistance in matching employees' care needs with services and facilities already available;
  • conduct employee seminars and courses on care issues, and
  • contribute (directly or indirectly) to the recruitment and organization of additional care in the community.

Employees benefit by receiving:

  • information on how to assess quality child care;
  • help in identifying possible sources of child care programs;
  • communication of new developments in child care, and
  • access to data on child care services.

Employers benefit from:

  • improvements in employee productivity;
  • decreases in tardiness, illness and absenteeism;
  • increased employee loyalty;
  • increased savings (from reduced employee time away from work), and
  • enhanced recruitment and image.

5. Advantages and disadvantages of implementing information and referral services

When compared to the development of other employer supported child care options, information and referral services present the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • relatively inexpensive to establish
  • can serve a broad range of dependent care needs
  • adapts to changing demographics of the workplace
  • stimulates program development in the community due to greater demand
  • suited to multi-site or smaller departments
  • visible within the department


  • initial time, effort, and costs related to database generation (if developed in-house)
  • of less use in smaller population centres
  • does not help families who cannot afford the existing child care options
  • high costs (time and resources) associated with maintaining the database

6. Assessing need for child care

Conducting an assessment of employees' needs will assist managers in deciding on the scope of the information and referral services. Before proceeding with any needs assessment, it would be useful to obtain information on currently available community services on child care from provincial governments.

Data can be gathered from employees through written questionnaires, telephone surveys or personal interviews. Additional information can be gathered about the departmental work force through the personnel management systems already in place. Following are examples of relevant information:

Personal information:

age, gender, home location, family income, marital status

Job information:

working arrangements and hours, compressed schedule, overtime requirements, job locations, group and level, travel requirements

Family related information:

ages of dependents, current care arrangements, care preferences-requirements, problems locating care sources

Work/Family conflicts:

emergency provisions, family-related leave

7. Departmental considerations

This section is designed to help departments anticipate the range of issues that may arise if they pursue the initiative to develop and to implement information and referral services.

The following is a partial checklist of the questions departments may come across.

  1. How will the department organize itself when offering the information and referral services:
    • as a single department?
    • as a participant in a consortium by region?
    • as a participant in a consortium by province?
    • as a participant in a consortium of departments (not necessarily by region or province)?
  2. Will the department offer an in-house service or contract out to a fee-for-service agency? What will this decision be based on?
  3. Will departments offer information only or
    • information and referrals?
    • information and referrals plus consultation with counsellors?
    • seminars, courses etc?
  4. If offering a referral service, will it be for licensed care only or for both licensed and unlicensed care?
    • How will the department mitigate the legal implications associated with unlicensed care?
    • How will the department protect themselves from liability?
  5. If a department develops the service in-house, will the department:
    • train existing or new staff to develop and implement the information and referral services?
    • hire expertise in the child care field to establish in-house information and referral services?
  6. How will the department monitor quality control?
  7. If the department contracts out to a fee-for-service agency, how will it assess the quality of the information and referral services?
  8. How will the department communicate the introduction of information and referral services to employees? What level of information will these communications include?
    • Will the information include, for example, the range of services, fee structures, etc?
  9. How will the department monitor the success of the information and referral services, on a long-term basis?
  10. How will the department adapt to changing needs of employees?
8. Examples

Example A

The Great West Life Assurance Company in Winnipeg, Manitoba offers an information, education, referral and counselling service to its 2300 employees. The family support service offered to employees is an in-house service developed and operated by the employer.

The Great-West Life Assurance Company provides the following to employees:

  • information on finding and selecting good quality child care
  • information on day care options in the community
  • access to a lending library of books, videos and other material on child care
  • noon hour seminars on child care for children
  • ten week parent education programs regarding children of various ages
  • Minnesota Early Learning Design Programs for first-time parents with children less than 2 years of age
  • information packages on child care and information sheets on various topics
  • organization of daily transportation to and from a summer camp program at the University of Manitoba
  • articles on child care for publication in the company newsletter.

Example B

International Business Machines (IBM Boston) is a national company that provides a third party information and referral service for its 260,000 U.S. based employees. This service is contracted out to Work/Family Directions (Boston), a consulting firm that develops multi-site referral services for companies by coordinating services through local child care agencies.

The following is a description of the scope and types of services offered by a fee-for-service agency and is intended to give departments an idea of what can be made available through such an organization.

When using the resource and referral service, parents are given a child care handbook and information on:

  • child care fees
  • the range of child care options
  • how to select quality care.

Parents also receive:

  1. a booklet describing the key child care regulations in their state
  2. materials on how to select in-home care where appropriate
  3. a working checklist to aid in evaluating child care services.

The child care service also gives parents three referrals with confirmed vacancies. Referrals are only to licensed child care. When licensed family day care is not available, the child care service applies standards approved by Work/Family directions.

9. References
  1. Cooke, Dr. Katie. Report of the Task Force On Child Care, (1986).
  2. Emery, Jill Houghton. Employers and Child Care: Benefiting Work and Family, (1989).
  3. Ham, Faith Lyman. Bringing the family to the bargaining table, Business & Health (August 1989): 42, 44.
  4. Huth, Stephen A. Corporations Provide Variety of Child Care Options, Employee Benefit Plan Review (September 1989): 48-50.
  5. Johnson, Laura C., et al. Working Families Project, Social Planning Council Of Metropolitan Toronto (December 1985).
  6. Mayfield, Margie I. Work-Related Child Care in Canada, Labour Canada (1990).
  7. Rhodes, David W., and Regan, Margaret, Managing Child Care in the 1990's, The Journal of Business Strategy (July/August 1989): 56-58.
  8. Ritter, Anne. Dependent Care Proves Profitable, (Special Section: Benefits Outlook) (March 1990): 12-14.
  9. Scott, Miriam Bash. Dependent Care: How Companies Help With Family Care, Employee Benefit Plan Review (May 1990): 12-14.
  10. Werther Jr., William B. Childcare and Eldercare Benefits, Personnel (Special Section: Benefits Outlook) (September 1989): 42-44, 46.
  11. One or Two Words?, Personnel Administrator (October 1989): 21.
  12. Employers must show they care, Accountancy (February 1990): 13.