There is no question about the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted communities in the US and abroad, with low-income communities, communities of color, women, parents and caregivers facing numerous pressures. According to a study conducted in Australia, parents and caregivers with children attending school remotely during the healthcare crisis experienced substantially higher levels of stress and work impairment compared to those with no home-schooling or school-aged children. Moreover, research conducted by Mental Health America points to similar results, showing that caregivers and parents usually lead more stressful lives and that their difficulties increase during a crisis.
This is not simply a problem faced by parents and caregivers, but also an important issue for their employers, as stress is known to degrade the quality of work. HR managers and their companies have been forced to make adjustments during the pandemic, but they will have to create new strategies as the world returns to normal. Not only are employees facing problems such as the surging inflation and the dreadful news of an ongoing war in Europe, but they are also struggling to adapt to the new normal. Providing workplace benefits for parents and caregivers could help them navigate through this new situation and improve their work performance.
Helping Working Parents and Caregivers
According to a new Pew Research Center study, the financial difficulties caused by the recent pandemic, as well as the economic crisis it triggered in the US, have mostly affected lower- and middle-income families. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the median income of lower-income American households decreased by 3%, while middle-income households lost 2.1%. The same data suggests that upper-income households were almost unaffected by these issues, with their median income for 2020 remaining roughly the same. Parents and caregivers from lower- and middle-income groups seem to have suffered the most from the crisis and its effects.
Companies like Farmers Insurance and WilsonHCG are already supporting parents and caregivers facing financial difficulties through a series of important benefits, according to Comparably. While Farmers’ suite of benefits for working parents and caregivers offers support on multiple levels—such as health and wellness, work-life balance, and financial security—WilsonHCG uses flexibility as a means of supporting employees who need more time for their children. The company customized the suite of benefits by prioritizing the employees’ medical and financial needs, while also trying to help all parents—including mothers, fathers, same-sex partners, and people with surrogacy arrangements.
Benefits for Working Parents and Caregivers
While being inclusive is extremely important when creating and offering benefits for parents and caregivers, it may be equally important to establish the right suite of benefits. Employees have different needs, based on whether they care for their children, seniors, or other relatives. Research suggests that a vast majority of parents and employees who plan to become parents someday (94%) favor a position that offers them flexibility, as they think this would help them be better parents. Companies that hope to have more productive employees should consider the fact that working parents need more flexible schedules, and there should be a possibility to occasionally opt for remote or hybrid work.
For lower- and middle-income parents, however, flexibility may be far from being the only important benefit needed. According to the National Compensation Survey (NCS), around 21% of US employees have the opportunity to benefit from taking family leave, including paid maternity or paternity leave. That is precisely why companies like Uber, Reify Health, Algolia, Squarespace, Klaviyo and others have decided to step up their game and offer paid family leave as a part of their suite of benefits. According to Comparably, companies like Uber help parents and caregivers by offering them a minimum of 18 weeks of paid leave to all—including non-birthing parents, whether they have a newborn, adopted or foster child.
Building a Better Future for Children and Seniors
As time passes, more people hope to work for companies that strive to create a better future—and that involves helping families to protect their children and elders. To do that, companies in the US and abroad should make sure they understand the needs of working parents and caregivers, and create a suite of benefits that help their employees overcome their unique challenges. Not only should companies provide more flexibility and financial benefits for American parents and caregivers, but they should also offer help to all parents and caregivers in an inclusive, diverse manner.
Companies like Farmers Insurance, WilsonHCG and Uber seem to be paving the way toward a better future, where families can be protected and employees can be more productive.