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Parent care: Helping mothers and fathers through an economic recovery

Parent care: Helping mothers and fathers through an economic recovery

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A recent news head line indicated that the economy was doomed if mothers don’t return to work. I was a bit shocked and had to check the date of the article to be absolutely sure it was written in 2020. Does this mean that the economy would be fine if fathers don’t return to work? Does the burden of saving the economy ride on the shoulders of mothers—those superwomen who manage to work full-time jobs while raising a family?

Safety at risk outside the home

All joking aside, in order to restore the country to full productivity, we must return to full employment of parents of both sexes (and child or eldercare givers who are “non-parents” too). They face some unique challenges in returning to work. There are limited daycare options and the long-awaited return to school is still some way off, with governments, school boards, and educators looking for the COVID-19-free map to returning to the classroom. The risk of exposure to the virus increases when attending a workplace, daycare, or school, so parents are motivated to keep their families safe by staying home.

For many employees (and their employers), full-time permanent work is possible from home. But those who opt for this arrangement may need to juggle home schooling or child care along with the job. While this may be known as “having it all”, in reality these employees are stretched between commitments to their families and to their jobs. This has the potential to undermine the physical and mental health of the employee, and, in turn, job performance.

Temporary tolerance?

At the height of the pandemic, there was a level of compassion and tolerance for people in temporary situations that included having a child or two appear on every conference call. As time moves on, there is evidence this tolerance is waning. While employers must still accommodate an employee who needs to work from home to care for their children, it is time to re-assess the support their employers can provide.

Recognizing that a healthy employee is good for business, employers wishing to return to their pre-pandemic revenue levels should consider some outside-the-box thinking to meet the time-crunch needs of those with children, particularly young children who are not yet able to go for long periods without supervision.

A timely reminder

Something like covering the cost of grocery delivery or a meal subscription service either directly or through a taxable spending account would give employees some peace of mind, a little extra time, and the financial support needed to be more comfortable using these services. Similarly, promoting mail order pharmacy services for prescription drugs may be just the nudge needed to check into the alternatives available from the benefits plan that make life easier.

Most employers have EAP services that assist with more than mental health support. A timely reminder of the additional offerings from the EAP may be welcome for employees needing assistance for a broad scope of things, including childcare, eldercare, diet, fitness, and even finances.

An unmapped road

These are interesting and challenging times. Returning our economy to health will take an effort by all employees – mothers, fathers, their colleagues and employers too. It is the beginning of a journey through uncharted territory. Listen to your employees and be prepared to support them with innovative solutions.

You know you can do it. You did it in March, you can do it again.

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