As we enter 2021, employers have found it necessary to examine their benefit offerings in order to make decisions that best support their workforce while ensuring the long-term success of their organization.
A report released today by the International Foundation finds that as the pandemic continues, organizations are reimbursing work-from-home expenses, adapting their paid-leave policies, offering flexible work schedules, and supporting workers with child- and elder-care responsibilities.
1. Providing Reimbursements for Work-From-Home Expenses
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employers report that on average, 14% of their workforce worked remotely, compared with 56% of their workforce who are working remotely now.
This shift has caused some employers to provide reimbursements to employees for expenses incurred when working from home. One-third of employers (31%) are reimbursing their workers for specific items, while 8% reimburse through a general stipend that covers all work-from-home expenses. An additional 17% are considering offering work-from-home reimbursements.
Due to the pandemic, organizations are reimbursing:
- 13% for office supplies
- 12% for office furniture
- 7% for electronic devices such as printers or laptops
- 6% for internet service
- 3% for cell phone service.
2. Making Changes to Paid and Unpaid Leave Policies
The majority of employers (63%) have made some sort of change to their leave offerings due to the pandemic. The most common changes include the introduction of emergency leave for childcare (19%) and carryover options for workers unable to use current vacation or paid time off (19%).
Employers are also offering paid leave to be used for any reason (15%), additional holidays (12%), emergency leave for elder care (11%) and the ability to borrow from not-yet-earned paid time off (11%). Additionally, some employers are offering unpaid leave to be used for any reason (8%) and COVID-19-specific sick leave (5%).
3. Adding Flexibility for Workers With Child-Care Responsibilities
For employees who are also parents, one of the greatest challenges of the pandemic has been working from home when schools or daycare facilities are closed. Employers have recognized the need to provide support and are offering options ranging from flexible schedules to virtual school tutors.
Employers have helped workers accommodate child-care and schooling needs by implementing work-from-home arrangements (65%) and permitting flexible hours (59%). Due to the pandemic, more than one in ten organizations (14%) are providing resources and referrals for child care, tutoring, or backup or emergency child care, with an additional 13% considering doing so. About 6% of employers offer virtual day camps for school-aged children, 5% provide financial assistance for tutoring and homeschooling, 3% for child care, and 3% for backup or emergency child care.
4. Supporting Workers With Elder-Care Responsibilities
During the pandemic, workers with elder-care responsibilities are facing similar challenges to those who have child-care needs, and organizations are implementing arrangements to accommodate these employees. Over half of employers (56%) have implemented work-from-home arrangements, and 42% offer flexible hours to allow for elder-care responsibilities. Other employers are providing resources and referrals for elder-care day programs (6%) as well as legal and financial consulting services regarding elder care (4%) due to the pandemic.
[Related Reading: Remote Work Policy Check-in—Time to Define Remote]
Employee Benefits in a COVID-19 World—Six-Month Update provides a look at the changes that workplaces have made to retirement plans, health care offerings, paid leave and flexible work arrangements in response to COVID-19 pandemic. International Foundation members have complimentary access to the report.
Employers can find more resources in navigating the pandemic and supporting workers on the International Foundation Coronavirus Resources webpage.
Communications Manager at the International Foundation
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