Even before the pandemic hit, working parents struggled to meet the needs of their employers and families. Then came the school and daycare closings, and working parents who were already at their breaking points got pushed even further.
Seven months into the pandemic, things aren't much better for this group of caregivers. With most child care centers still closed around the country and the vast majority of schools practicing remote learning, working parents are dealing with the overwhelming task of once again juggling caregiving and work responsibilities as we head into the Fall.
And while much attention has been given to parents trying to balance their professional responsibilities with home-schooling and taking care of their children, there are also millions of people who are juggling remote work and eldercare for aging parents and other relatives.
Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities is contributing to decreased productivity, poor mental health, and increased stress among employees. All this is leading to lower morale, higher absenteeism, an increased risk for all sorts of health conditions, and higher health care costs.
Just consider a few of the stunning findings from a survey from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), conducted earlier this summer;
BCG surveyed working parents in five countries (the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy) and here's what they found;
- Sixty percent of respondents have no outside help for caregiving and educating their children, and another 10 percent have less help than before the pandemic.
- Parents are now spending 27 additional hours each week on household chores, childcare, and education (nearly the equivalent of a second job).
- Even though men are stepping up, women continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, spending, on average, 15 more hours on domestic labor than men.
- Close to half (50 percent) of respondents feel that their performance at work has decreased as a result of these additional demands.
Regardless of whether your business is asking employees to physically return to the workplace or employees are working remotely from home, it’s important that you implement initiatives designed to help employees manage their caregiving responsibilities.
Here are some things for employers to keep in mind as they implement these initiatives;
UNDERSTAND THE NEW LEAVE PROVISIONS OF THE FFCRA
Employers should re-familiarize themselves with the leave requirements outlines in the FFCRA:
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides employees with paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19.
- The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires employers to provide 12 weeks of leave to employees to care for a child whose school or care facility has closed.
- The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires employers to provide 80 hours of paid sick time to employees.
Note that the DOL just revised the FFCRA regulations last week in response to a New York
Federal court decision that struck down parts of the regulations. The revisions take effect this Wednesday, September 16, 2020.
In summary, the revisions posted by the U.S. Department of Labor do the following. They;
- Reaffirm and provide additional explanation for the requirement that employees may take FFCRA leave only if work would otherwise be available to them.
- Reaffirm and provide additional explanation for the requirement that an employee have employer approval to take FFCRA leave intermittently.
- Revise the definition of “healthcare provider” to include only employees who meet the definition of that term under the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations or who are employed to provide diagnostic services, preventative services, treatment services or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care which, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care.
- Clarify that employees must provide required documentation supporting their need for FFCRA leave to their employers as soon as practicable.
- Correct an inconsistency regarding when employees may be required to provide notice of a need to take expanded family and medical leave to their employers.
In addition to brushing-up on the FFCRA, here are other actions employers should take;
BENCHMARK WHAT OTHER EMPLOYERS ARE DOING
Employers should ask around to gain insights into what employers in their industry and geography are doing. According to the same BCG survey, the following initiatives were most commonly being offered to employees:
- Work-from-home arrangements
- More flexible time off
- Paid or unpaid family leave
- Employer-sponsored child care for essential workers
OTHER BEST PRACTICES FOR EMPLOYERS
Tremendous variability exists across employers as to how they are helping employees manage caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. That said, and in general, flexible workplace policies can help organizations rebound quickly as the business environment improves.
Employers looking to bounce back quickly should consider the following general employment best practices:
- Monitor compensation practices and performance appraisal systems for patterns of potential discrimination against caregivers. Ensure that performance appraisals are based on employees’ actual job performance and not on stereotypes about caregivers.
- Review workplace policies that limit employee flexibility to ensure they are necessary for business operations. Examples of such policies include fixed hours of work and mandatory overtime.
- Encourage employees to request flexible work arrangements that allow them to balance work and personal responsibilities. Arrangements may include flextime programs, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, part-time work and job sharing.
- If overtime is required, make it as family-friendly as possible. Determine whether a voluntary, rather than mandatory, overtime system would meet the needs of the organization. If not, permit employees to schedule overtime in advance so they can arrange for caregiving responsibilities.
- Reassign job duties that employees are unable to perform because of pregnancy or other caregiving responsibilities.
- Provide reasonable personal or sick leave to allow employees to engage in caregiving even if not required to do so by the FMLA.
- Post employee schedules as early as possible for positions that have changing work schedules. That’ll help employees arrange in advance for caregiving responsibilities.
- Promote an inclusive workplace culture. Cultivate a professional work environment that recognizes and appreciates the contributions of all workers and demonstrates respect for employees’ personal lives.
Remember, not every initiative will be the right one for you and your company. Be sure to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each initiative, and realistically assess whether it’s a feasible option.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR BURNOUT
Since burnout results from prolonged and chronic workplace stress, it’s essential to know how to recognize the signs—both physical and non-physical—of workplace stress. While it may not be possible to eliminate job-related stress altogether for your employees, you can help them by:
- Encouraging employees to utilize their paid time off
- Incorporating company-sponsored activities to give employees a reason to leave their desks and take a break
- Training managers on how to keep employees engaged and motivated at work, and how to address burnout with employees
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on all things COVID-19 related, we've assembled two comprehensive COVID-19 Download Resource Centers designed to help both employers and employees deal with this pandemic and the challenges facing all of us.
These resource centers contain more than 225 documents, ready for download, spanning compliance, financial relief, cost containment, employee communications, reopening best practices, and much more.