New Law to Make it Easier for Small Businesses to Offer Day Care

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AUSTIN — A new state law will make it easier for small businesses to operate their own onsite child-care centers for the children of employees.

Signed into law last month, House Bill 1385 simplifies the day-care licensing process for small businesses and doesn't require them to obtain a commercial license.

The new law will apply to companies with fewer than 50 employees and allows workplace care for as many as 12 children. The law takes effect Sept. 1, but rules for implementing it are not expected to be final until March 1.

"This is very important for working moms in particular who have a desire to advance in their chosen career and who also want to be a part of raising their children," said the bill's author, Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

While small businesses will face a simplified licensing process, the new rules will likely require background checks for day-care employees and will address health and safety issues, officials said.

The proposal was initiated by the San Antonio advertising firm Guerra DeBerry Coody. The firm ran into problems getting a license for its onsite daycare because it was neither a traditional commercial day-care center nor an in-home daycare.

"The only way to fix it was to get a new law," said Michele Brown, director of promotions and loyalty marketing for the company, who brings two children to work with her.

Firm partner Tess Coody said the process of getting a commercial license — which the firm completed — is daunting for companies whose core business is not day care. She hopes other small businesses will consider the model of workplace day care.

"We have a problem with day care availability and affordability in this state," Coody said. "We really do see this as a social mission. ... We are sisters and brothers in that effort."

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, said most companies probably don't know about the new law yet.

"Where it's appropriate, people will try to make it work for their employees," Hammond said. "It's a valuable tool and an option for employers who are trying to get and maintain good employees."

Heather Escudero, an employee of Guerra DeBerry Coody and a single mother of two young children, said the firm's onsite day care makes a huge difference.

"Literally, no one in the market can compete with this," she said. "It's the ideal situation. It's the middle of the day, and I'm spending time with the babies and being able to work. It's the best of both worlds."