We all know what a shattering event the COVID-19 pandemic was for caregivers. As the world was grounded to a halt, working parents and other caregivers were suddenly left without a stable form of childcare during the workday. According to a Harvard Business Review survey of 2,500 working parents, nearly 20% of working parents had to leave the workforce or reduce their hours due to lack of childcare. This statistic does not even include other caregivers—those caring for aging parents or other relatives. Prior to the pandemic, inadequate childcare resulted in working parents losing $37 billion a year in income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity. It’s clear that caregiving is a business issue. It is crucial that companies provide supportive workplaces and benefits that address employee needs at all phases of the caregiving spectrum for the unique circumstances that accompany a modern workforce.
Here are eight top employee benefits that support employees as caregivers:
- Paid Leave – While the FMLA mandates unpaid leave, it is one of the most requested caregiving benefits to provide paid leave to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child and regardless of primary caregiver status.
- Mental Health Services/EAP – It is especially important to provide self-care for caregivers. Stress and burnout often accompany juggling multiple roles of worker/caregiver.
- Emergency/Back-up Care – Many companies are offering services for back-up childcare for a given number of days. According to Care.com’s Future of Benefits report, 46% of employers say they are prioritizing childcare more in 2023.
- Lifestyle Spending Accounts – Also known as a lifestyle account. This is an employer-funded account designed to support employees’ physical, mental, and financial wellness. Generally, they are taxable, but they allow employees to spend funds on whatever needs they have so it is a great way for employees to customize their benefits.
- Family Planning and Adoption Benefits – As part of the medical program, many employers are adding or enhancing fertility benefits. In some cases, the requirement of infertility is waived, so that same-sex couples or women starting a family later in life can access these benefits. In addition, companies are providing a stipend for adoption or surrogacy services.
- Flexible Work Arrangements – One of the most transformative workplace changes to emerge from the pandemic was flexible and hybrid work arrangements. These types of arrangements allow working parents to have flexibility in the beginning and end of the day when it is most difficult to coordinate their children’s schedules. In addition, allowing employees to work from home, at least some of the time, helps with retention, engagement, and less burnout for caregivers.
- Lactation Support – There are an emerging crop of vendors that provide various levels of lactation support, including resources and information, as well as breast pumps, access to a lactation consultant or nurse, and even shipping of breast milk when a nursing mother needs to travel for work.
- Concierge Services – These are information resources and educational support up to full concierge services to assist caregivers in finding the right care.
This is not an exhaustive list of caregiving benefits that employees are asking for and employers are considering. These benefits are part of a larger picture and strategy around a customizable and comprehensive benefits offering. To remain competitive, it is incumbent upon employers and plan sponsors to evaluate their total health and welfare programs.
Contact Cowden for our expertise and advice on designing a health care strategy that fits your business and workforce needs, including caregiving benefits.