6 Ways to Support Parents and Caregivers in the Workplace
Now that the school year is returning and along with it parent-teacher conferences, sporting events and other school-related activities, many parents are struggling to maintain balance. There are also a large percentage of employees who care for ailing or elderly relatives. An AARP report shows that nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers are caregivers and that those caregivers spend, on average, 24 hours per week providing care. With mounting family obligations, some employees are struggling to meet the demands of their jobs while also providing quality care and support to their families.
Traditionally, family-oriented company benefits have focused on the needs of parents. However, with more diverse family structures, employers have expanded their support to address the needs of dual parents, same-sex parents, single parent households, and family caregivers. As children head back to school, here are some of the ways employers can support working parents and employees who have caregiving responsibilities.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexibility is perhaps one of the most desired benefits for caregivers. Flexible work arrangements, such as a compressed workweek, remote work options, flex time, and job sharing allow employees to work around the needs of those they’re caring for. Essentially, flexibility can help parents and caregivers attend important doctor’s appointments, drop off and pick up kids from school or daycare, and attend parent-teacher conferences and other school-related activities.
Childcare & Caregiver Assistance
Access to backup care in cases of emergency, on-site or close-by daycare, and employer-paid caregiving resources are all ways to help employees manage the burden of providing care. Employers can also connect their employees to services that match them with a care professional as well as additional care resources and social programs that help them support loved ones.
An AARP report revealed that 62% of caregivers experience high financial strain and are unable to save, while 56% said they had taken on more debt. Employers can provide caregivers with various forms of financial support. For example, consider a personal spending account or wellness account that covers childcare and senior care. Dependent care benefits can also help defray the cost of providing care. These benefits allow employees to withhold pre-tax income from each paycheck to help pay for the care of a child, spouse, or other dependent adult who lives in their household. Employers are also in the position to provide much-needed financial wellness benefits that can help employees set specific financial goals and make better financial decisions.
Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary employee-led cohorts made up of employees with common interests, stages of life, or demographics. They serve as a sanctuary for employees with similar backgrounds to connect with one another. For working parents and caregivers, an ERG can provide the advice, understanding, and support they need for their shared life experiences. HR and business leaders should empower caregivers with a safe space to build community and belonging within the workplace by fostering ERGs and encouraging their employees to participate.
Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting their employees through the emotional and financial challenges of family-building. Fertility benefits, adoption assistance, and expanded parental leave are all ways to support employees who are looking to expand their family. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the number of organizations offering such benefits has grown steadily over the past five years and LGBTQ and single employees are increasingly eligible.
Employers must work to create a culture that is welcoming and inclusive for employees who are parents and those with caregiving responsibilities. Employees with children or elderly parents to care for may not be able to respond to emails or perform work-related duties once they’ve left the office or completed their work hours. It’s important to set reasonable expectations related to after-hours work, ensure good time management, and avoid allowing meetings and other work activities to extend into employees’ personal time.
Family and caregiving benefits touch employees' lives in a deeply personal way. For employees struggling to balance work and family responsibilities, employer-provided support can create a sense of security and reduce physical, mental and financial stress. Providing much-needed support for working parents and caregivers is a great way to show your employees that you care about their overall well-being.