At the end of a typical summer, many parents of school-aged children would be breathing a sigh of relief, knowing the struggle to keep kids busy and to cobble together child-care arrangements during the summer is over because their kids are back in school or will be soon.
This fall will be anything but typical for many families, however. Kids will get back to learning, but many will be working at home alongside their parents, Zooming with teachers and completing online homework assignments.
And school situations could change as the fall continues. In-person school five days a week may shift to a few days a week or to fully remote.
All of this creates a lot of stress—not only over child-care arrangements but also concern that kids will fall behind academically. In a survey by the American Psychological Association late last spring, 71% of parents identified managing distance/online learning as a significant source of stress.
In addition to complying with federal, state and local mandates requiring certain types of leave for employees facing child-care challenges, there are other ways employers can help.
Provide Flexibility With Schedules and Leave
Employers could consider putting all paid leave into a paid-time-off bank, allowing employees to take time off as they need it, regardless of the reason, said Julie Stich, CEBS, Vice President of Content at the International Foundation. Employers also can offer leave donation or buy-sell programs to help employees who have too little or too much paid leave available.
Other flexible options that may benefit employees include the ability to job share, work part-time or work a compressed schedule. In addition to allowing employees to work from home, some employers have increased the amount of paid emergency leave offered and allow employees to take the time in smaller increments.
Offer Child-Care Assistance
Some employers are subsidizing employees’ memberships in search firms to assist them in finding care, and some are paying for a portion of the cost of backup child care.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Foundation’s Employee Benefits Survey: 2018 Results showed that 3% of employers offered child-care subsidies, 7% offered emergency/sick child care, and 27% offered resource and referral services for child care.
Supply Access to Educational Resources
Several vendors offer programs that include webinars, videos and other caregiver support education that employers can purchase for employee use. Some of the education focuses on helping parents address the educational challenges of children with special needs. Interest also has increased in subsidizing the cost of tutoring services.
Stich noted that employee assistance programs (EAPs) also can be a helpful source of child-care and educational information. Learn more: COVID-19: Don’t Forget Your EAP.
Join the Conversation
Do you have ideas for how to help employees deal with remote learning this fall? Share them at community.ifebp.org.
[Related Reading: Changes to Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts due to COVID-19]
Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Senior Editor, Publications at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
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