Back-to-school time is a certain relief to most parents as family life returns to a more routine schedule. But, with that school-day consistency comes inconsistent workday disrupters . . . 4:00 soccer practice, Thursday morning college-planning parent meeting, or the dreaded “your child has a fever” call from the nurse’s office. Work-life balance-focused employee benefits can be the difference in how working parents face the school year.

In this second in a miniseries of Word on Benefits “back-to-school specials,’ let’s take a look how employers are balancing the increasing requests for workplace flexibility with productivity.

Back-to-School Special: Work-Life Balance Benefits

As a seasoned work/parenting juggler, I categorize the most common school day/workday collisions into two categories: (1) Sick child, (2) “How can I make it to that school event/sports practice/meeting in the middle of my workday?”

The International Foundation continues to keep tabs on employer trends in the areas of paid leave and flexible work arrangements through our Employee Benefits Survey and soon-to-be-released paid leave and flexible work arrangements surveys. Below are some highlights of feedback from our employer members in the United States, addressing two of the key work-life balance benefits parents in the workforce are often seeking.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees, including those without children, are increasingly seeking jobs with more control over when and where they work. The recent Gallup State of the American Workplace report states that 51% of workers would change jobs for one with more flexibility. While flexible schedules are unrealistic for many roles, Gallup notes “ . . . if leaders want to compete for a modern workforce, they should consider weaving some element of flexibility into their culture, such as allowing employees to leave for medical appointments without drawing from vacation time.”

How are employers responding to this increasing demand for flexibility? According to the International Foundation Employee Benefit Survey, responding organizations provide the following flexible work benefits:

  • Flexible workhours or compressed workweeks—47%
  • Telecommuting/working from home—47%
  • Paid leave to attend a child’s activities—9%
  • Unpaid leave to attend at child’s activities—21%

Several states require employers to provide unpaid time off to parents to attend activities at their children’s schools or day cares. Eligibility, the types of activities and level of leave benefits vary widely from state to state.

Paid Leave

From a one-day stomach bug to a week-long battle with pinkeye, having a child with a short-term illness can leave working parents feeling pulled in multiple directions. While FMLA was established to provide leave for serious illness, and an increasing number of organizations have defined leave policies for the birth or adoption of a child, many workers find themselves in a bind when it comes to managing time off for the care of a sick child.

Later this month, the International Foundation will release an extensive research report, Paid Leave in the Workplace: 2017 Survey Results, which will include insights on family-related benefits. A preview of these results shows corporate and public employee members in the U.S. offer:

  • Paid sick leave for care of a child—78%
  • Paid emergency leave for caregiving—61%
  • Paid personal leave—56%

Watch for more detailed data on paid leave and flexible work arrangements coming from the International Foundation this fall at

Ann Godsell, CEBS
Director, Social Media and Content Marketing at the International Foundation


Director, Social Media and Content Marketing at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product:
Face to face conferences.

Benefit topics that grab her: Benefit communication, preventive health, health care cost management, workflex

Favorite Foundation conference moments: Meeting Dr. Andrew Weil at the Annual Employee Benefits Conference was a cherished opportunity. She also loves the times when she and a member recognize each other at a conference because of interacting on Twitter!

Personal Insight: Known around the office as “appropriately paranoid,” Ann is usually prepared for a variety of potential outcomes in most every situation.

Recommended Posts

New Mental Health Parity Guidance: More Clarity, But More Compliance Obligations

Anne Newhouse

According to speaker John Barlament, Shareholder, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, S.C., in his webcast “New Mental Health Parity Guidance: More Clarity, But More Compliance Obligations,” held on August 30, 2023, new guidance has been “desperately needed” on the topic of mental health […]

Legal & Legislative Reporter: Medical Provider May Not Bring Claim on Behalf of Participants and Beneficiaries

Guest Contributor

Every month, the International Foundation releases the Legal and Legislative Reporter, a compilation of new employee benefits–related case summaries. Below is a summary we thought you’d be interested in. Content provided by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. The U.S. District Court for the […]

Five Steps to Nurture Belonging in the Workplace

Guest Contributor

Benefits Magazine Extras articles provide you with bonus content on a mix of benefits topics as well as deep dives and analyses on the latest benefit trends and compliance issues. Visit to see the latest Benefits Magazine Extras as well as the bimonthly print […]

Navigating Uncertainty

Christine Vazquez, CEBS

In today’s business environment, change is constant. Earning a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) designation can help benefits professionals improve their ability to manage organizational change. The self-study CEBS courses provide critical knowledge and skills to scan the environment and strategically tailor benefit […]