What are essential benefits? What your employees deem essential could be different from your company’s definition. Caregiving benefits — benefits which address care for children, ill, or elderly family members — have been on employee wishlists for a long time. Now, they might be coming into their own.

In a pre-pandemic workplace, anything above and beyond healthcare, dental, and vision could have been considered a decent bonus. A hiring package which included benefits addressing mental health, caregiving, or financial assistance would probably be considered quite the catch.

After a year that has tested everything we know about work and health, and changed many the way many companies do business forever, it’s time to consider what employees feel is essential — essential to their health, to their families, and to their ability to get work done.

Caregiving Benefits

Offerings which help families deal with changing needs and shifting schedules are increasingly important to employees. The effect of school and daycare closures on America’s female employees has been well-documented at this point: the first-ever “female recession” has taken more than two million women from the workforce.

And it’s not just women who had to put work on hold to handle homeschooling. One report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found more than half of parents who hadn’t yet returned to work in October, 2020, stayed home because they had no one to care for their children.

Moreover, elderly and ill family members affect as many as one in six employees in the United States, according to caregiver.org. Data shows that many full-time workers truly have a second full-time job at home, as a caregiver.

Clearly, without some help managing their caregiving and childcare duties, many Americans simply cannot get back to work — even when the desire exists and the jobs are there waiting.

Does that make caregiving benefits — including child care benefits, back-up care, flexible work hours, and paid leave for caregiving as well as parental and sick leave — essential? Employees certainly think so. A Care.com survey found that 69% of those surveyed would consider trading a current benefit to get employer-subsidized child care benefits. Employees are looking for ways to make caregiving mesh with their career.

Are Employers Listening?

Before the pandemic, one survey by the AARP found about 60% of employers found caregiving a top priority. As the issue continues to affect worker productivity and limits access to the employment market, the concept of caregiving benefits as essential is gaining momentum. Employers, it’s time to ask your employees what they consider essential — and make sure you’re exploring the ways to live up to their expectations.

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