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.
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.
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 www.ifebp.org/research.
Ann Godsell, CEBS
Director, Social Media and Content Marketing at the International Foundation