Employee Benefits for a Back to School Season Like Never Before

This year the fall back to school season is going to look very different. Both working parents and employers nationwide will be navigating novel circumstances in the wake of COVID-19. From varied school openings and lack of child care to juggling continued work responsibilities through it all, the challenges are mounting and there’s still a lot unknown.

With decisions on how schools will operate this year so varied across the country, no matter what the school year brings one certainty is clear, employers have an opportunity to support their workforce with their employee benefit programs.

Among companies that have already returned to work or didn’t close, 42% do not have a dedicated plan to help employees with child care responsibilities, according to Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) recent research. They also found that only 24% of organizations without a set return date have a plan while 32% of organizations that do have a set return date have outlined a child care plan.

Employers that don’t offer any support may face decreased retention rates and loss of top talent. When the cost of recruiting and retraining is so high, at times up to 200% of an employee’s salary according to a SHRM report on employee retention, it’s just good business to combat turnover with programs that support employees as they manage their work-life responsibilities.

Looking beyond the cost of hiring and training new employees, employers also must consider losses in productivity as employees struggle to manage child care. A ReadyNation report found that each year employers lose about $13 billion in potential earnings, productivity and revenue due to inadequate child care resources.

Another major concern many parents are facing is whether COVID-19 will affect their children’s growth and achievement long term. According to research, NWEA projects major academic impacts for students. Preliminary estimates suggest students will return in fall 2020 with roughly 70% of the learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year and less than 50% of the learning gains in mathematics.

What Employees Need

What Employees Need
Whether employees plan to send their children back to the classroom, keep them home or a hybrid of both, we know they will be facing a plethora of new challenges. Their needs will range far beyond making tough schooling decisions, managing changing schedules and supporting virtual or home learning.

Based on our expertise, what we’ve already heard from our members and our diligent monitoring of updates and trends, in addition to finding care we know the scenarios employees will need to navigate may range across supplementing education, advocating for special needs, figuring out transportation, dealing with food insecurity and pivoting when schools close suddenly as positive COVID-19 cases are confirmed.

In fact, here are just a few of the real requests we’ve already received from our members:

  • With a Kindergartener and third grader that will be learning virtually this fall, a member called looking for help finding a full-time caregiver to assist with caring for the children and managing their studies. The school district was not providing information or answering questions about plans for the school year, and the member wanted to be prepared. He was also considering joining a learning pod with another family. We provided referrals to two local agencies with availability to assist the family.
  • A member was looking for a weekday caregiver to help her children with their daily routine, learning and assignments while she works from home. She had already spent time looking into local programs on her own but wasn’t able to find the right fit. After doing extensive research we shared five providers that met the family’s needs.
  • As the upcoming school year approaches, a member needed help finding before and after school care options for her 10-year-old with special needs. She explained that her son does best in a one-on-one setting and shared details about the type of care that would be needed. We were able to find her two local providers that are available and would be able to accommodate the family’s needs.
  • A member called with concerns about the coming school year. She said that the school was not offering any information about virtual learning and she would like to learn more about homeschooling. Her child will be starting first grade in the fall and she needed help learning about and navigating the homeschooling process. We provided referrals and informational guides that explained details about homeschooling and virtual learning.

What Employers Can Do

What Employers Can Do
It’s clear that these unprecedented times will make employees lives more difficult. With that in mind, the question is how can employers help their employees juggle everything they’re facing this fall? Here are some high-impact benefits that can support your employees.

Ongoing Care Support
Researching solutions for all of these unique challenges is time-consuming, no doubt impacting employees’ focus at work. Especially when it comes to finding child care, considering the already stressful situation of leaving your child with someone to care for them, it’s important they get the peace of mind of finding reliable, trustworthy, affordable care, or they will be consumed by worry and distraction. Furthermore, having to juggle schedules, drop-off and pickup times, finding and vetting various programs and their ongoing professional responsibilities can feel next to impossible for working parents. Offering Ongoing Care Support programs to do the time-consuming research will save employees stress, money and time.

Online Tutoring & Academic Resources
To help ease some of the educational burden that has been hefted onto working parents nationwide, employers can provide access to online academic programs that offer on-demand access to expert professional tutors and resources like test prep, self-study guides and essay review that can help families overcome educational challenges, and keep kids learning. These benefits cover core subjects across grades K-12, college and university where students all over the country could be falling behind. Additionally, this support can help ease the stress and struggle many parents are experiencing as they are tasked with helping their children learn everything from algebra and biology to reading, social studies and more.

Backup Child Care
Offering company subsidized backup care as regular care plans are disrupted will help working parents bridge care gaps and remain focused and productive while working, knowing their children are being cared for by either trusted caregivers they know or vetted care providers. We’ve seen many of our clients rely heavily on this program during this time, with a 600% increase in utilization. We’ve also seen clients either increase their available care allotment or implement a new program entirely.

Employee Discounts
Many employees are facing new financial struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the demands of back to school shopping add further burden. Offering employees an easy to access, complimentary discount program that can help them save on the things they need now, including school supplies, electronics, groceries, meal delivery, child care, home office equipment, and more, is a great way employers can alleviate some of their financial burden.

Emotional Health Support
In the face of all this demand and uncertainty, working parents may find themselves stretched too thin, experiencing increased stress levels, anxiety and emotional health concerns. That’s why it’s important that employers offer Employee Assistance Programs so employees have somewhere to turn to help manage these emotions. It’s also imperative to regularly share emotional health resources and information to help employees recognize if they have an issue and learn how to cope.

Care Subsidy Administration
Understanding the new child care demand on employees, many forward-thinking employers are offering relief for employees, but can then be burdened by implementing and running the program functions. Subsidy administration programs can help you manage and administer any financial relief you may be offering to working parents, saving your team time and stress.

Although employers can’t completely relieve the challenges their employees are facing this fall, offering the best support possible can go a long way to remove some of the burdens they face and in turn, improve focus, productivity and morale.

As we look forward to the months ahead, the LifeCare team has been proactively planning for the next chapter of challenges organizations and employees will face. We are aware that the current state is continuously changing, and our team is working diligently to stay abreast of the evolving trends and needs.

From back to school decisions and child care to working in this new phase and more, our programs are uniquely positioned to support members right now. Additionally, we continue to curate the most relevant content and information for members, including a new back-to-school focused collection and we’re actively adding new relevant webinar topics. To learn more about how we can support your organization and employees with a customized program, contact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.