Pandemic silver lining? Employers start to recognize importance of caregiving benefits
“Caregiving challenges are not new for families. They were just really highlighted during Covid, because we were literally zooming into people’s homes,” said one recruitment expert.
By Martha C. White
“Child care and balancing the demands of, say, dealing with a sick kid, have been perennial issues, even pre-Covid,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The pandemic, Challenger said, essentially pulled back the curtain to expose a rickety, fragmented system that didn’t function very well even at the best of times.
What happens next — and how much of the lessons of the pandemic will be retained in the future — could turn out to be an unexpected silver lining during a year of unprecedented stress and challenges.
“Sometimes it takes a big crisis to set in motion shifts in compensation,” Challenger said.
“I think it does indicate that this issue, particularly for women around caregiving and careers, has at least been recognized by a large number of organizations. In this crisis, we saw such an outflow of women from the workforce as the coronavirus hit,” Challenger said. “I think you’re starting to see smart companies recognize that if they want to be the best possible company they can be, which means having a diverse set of individuals leading their organization, that it’s going to take an active effort to get women back into the pipeline and back into the office.”
“It’s just an acknowledgement of this idea that emergencies happen, emergency child care situations arise. Companies that have now been forced to reckon with a mass child care emergency now have the tools and wherewithal to help employees,” Challenger said.
In a recent survey of more than 200 HR executives, Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 84 percent said they are offering workers more flexibility, with many making changes specifically in response to workers’ caregiving obligations. Two out of five reported that they specifically have extended greater flexibility to parents, with 23 percent expanding paid time off and 13 percent offering child care options.
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