Parents and Other Caregivers
Juggling work and family responsibilities has always been challenging. This is true not only for parents, but also for people caring for elderly, medically vulnerable, or disabled family members. When workers cannot find adequate caregiving support, they often leave the labor force. Others stay at their jobs, but the constant pressure of trying to balance work and caregiving responsibilities can take a toll on their mental well-being. The following provide examples of strategies and activities that some employers may wish to consider implementing to help working parents and caregivers:
- Be compassionate, empathetic, and do not make workers feel like they need to hide their family-based commitments. Working parents and caregivers worry their employers will view their personal obligations as a strike against them. Workers worry that additional requests for time off to address caregiving tasks will annoy management and threaten their job security. Employers can put their workers’ minds at ease by showing empathy and giving workers permission (through organization-wide communications) to put the needs of their loved ones first and assure them access to paid leave benefits. Hosting family-friendly events is another way that employers can show their workers’ families are valued. An example of such events may include offering a ‘Take Your Kids to Work’ Day and inviting workers and their families to attend a tour of an animal sanctuary, a costume contest, family bingo, or remote karaoke.
- Offer flexibility and extended telework. There is no one-size-fits-all scheduling solution for working parents or caregivers. Some may want to continue working full-time but need to shift their hours to certain times of the day. Others may wish to temporarily shift from a full-time to part-time schedule or propose a job-sharing scenario. The most useful thing to do is allow working parents and caregivers as much flexibility as possible to follow a schedule that works best for their family’s needs. For some, this may mean starting the day earlier and ending earlier. For others, it may mean blocking off certain hours of the day to attend to their family members and letting their co-workers and managers know they will be unavailable during those times and not checking emails.
- Provide more caregiving-friendly benefits. Some organizations may extend their leave policies beyond what is required by Federal or State family and medical leave laws to help caregivers meet family obligations; others offer stipends, some of which allow workers to hire relatives or friends to provide in-home care and receive reimbursement; and some have expanded back-up care benefits to help families access child or elder care coverage when their normal pre-arranged care falls through. The following offer examples of strategies that some U.S. companies have introduced to help workers:
- Extending paid family caregiver leave policy so that workers have the option to take more time off to address caregiving responsibilities
- Giving paid parental leave to working parents, offering this benefit to both full-time workers and hourly workers, and allowing them to use it all at once or intermittently.
- Providing periods of full paid leave for those who need it to meet caregiving responsibilities.
- Allowing workers facing caregiving hardships to take paid time off to provide care either to a child or elder.
- Increasing the number of days workers can tap into backup care benefits, which provide funding a day to hire an in-home childcare provider.
- Offering workers subsidized child support that can be accessed either in-home or at a care center.
- Allowing workers to take short-term sabbaticals or leave and retain their job and benefits without penalty if they need time off to take care of their family members.
- Implementing a job-sharing program so that those who need to reduce their hours can do so.
- Implementing a voluntary leave donation program so that employees can share unshared leave with those in need
- Initiating eldercare benefits, providing workers access to care coordinators who specialize in helping seniors live independently at home with dignity while simultaneously reducing the stress and work for their family caregivers.
- Provide options for onsite caregiving support if possible. Employers can expand their onsite childcare programs for workers, finding ways to place more of their staff’s children in workplace childcare/learning centers at a reduced fee.
- Establish parent and caregiver forums. Hosting online video meetings for working parents and other caregivers to explore ideas for balancing work and caregiving responsibilities can also be beneficial. Not only do such forums provide a place for people to commiserate, but they can serve as an important source of practical advice, as colleagues can alert each other of local babysitters or daycare centers with openings; consider collaborating with each other to form small caregiving “pods” or micro-schools; or share tips for homeschooling, setting up new family schedules, or offering book and educational resource recommendations.
- Set up online enrichment activities for workers’ children. Some employers have found ways to help working parents fill some of the enrichment gaps. Examples include:
- Launching a virtual summer camp to keep workers’ children entertained, offering cooking, sports, yoga, crafts, and other activities.
- Finding volunteers within a company’s ranks to provide virtual enrichment programs for their colleagues’ children, including piano lessons, art projects, cooking instruction, or shop classes.
- Making a child psychologist available (virtually) to workers’ children to hold sessions that tackle tough conversations.
- Offering daily virtual story-time sessions.
- Providing access to tutoring services for workers’ children at no cost to workers.