Last month the Northern Virginia Family Services (NVFS) held their annual CARE Awards Launch (Companies as Responsive Employers). HR Advisors Group has had the privilege of being involved in this worthwhile event for the past three years. I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the background and details of this awards program that recognizes best practices and programs relating to family-friendly employers.
Since 1992, when the first CARE Awards were awarded, there has been national focus on meeting the needs of employees regarding family related issues. Some of this focus has been through public laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), the Affordable Care Act of 2010. More recently, President Obama held the first White House Summit on Working Families in June, 2014 where business leaders and workers were brought together to talk about addressing the challenges that working parents face.
Although organizations like the NVFS, the CARE Awards and national laws are essential to the promotion of family-oriented policies in the workplace, companies large and small should examine their own policies. Creating a family-friendly culture benefits employees by reducing stress in finding a work/life balance and benefits employers by creating an environment where employees are more productive. The following checklist is taken from the Community Tool Box and provides many options that employers can provide to create a family-friendly culture.
- Flex-time. For employees with family obligations, control of their time may be the most valuable benefit an employer can give.
- Job sharing. Two (or more, but that’s very unusual) employees may share a single position, by each working a fraction of the necessary time.
- Temporary or permanent switch to part-time. A full-time employee might be allowed to change to a part-time position – either as part of a job share, or simply as a reduction in working hours – and still continue in the same position.
- Allowing work away from the worksite. An employee may work from home or some other remote site some or all of the time.
- Maternity/paternity leave. Part of an employee benefit package may be paid or unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or acceptance of the foster placement of a child.
- Parental leave. This is a short-term option that allows a parent to take an afternoon or a day off to pick up a sick child at school or tend to one at home, attend a school performance or athletic event, or otherwise minister to a child’s needs.
- Flexible emergency leave. This offers a certain number of days a year to attend to medical or other emergencies, usually with pay.
- Employee and family health benefits. These may include not only generous health and dental insurance, but on-site wellness centers, on-site fitness centers or subsidies for joining a gym, and even health-and-fitness-oriented programs for employees’ children or spouses.
- Child care. On-site day care isn’t the only option here. An employer might subsidize employees’ child care, paying all or some part of approved arrangements. Other possibilities are to provide referrals to reliable child care, or reserve slots at particular facilities for employees’ children.
- Elder care. Although very few employers, if any, actually provide elder day care or home care, many provide resources and referrals – and even subsidies – for such care.
- Family-oriented events. Many employers arrange company picnics, Christmas parties, and other events to include employees’ families.
- Family-oriented environment. Some employers, particularly smaller ones, make it possible for people to bring their children to the workplace from time to time when necessary. These employers may set up a playroom, with toys and children’s videos to keep children busy at those times.
- Tuition for employee education.
- College scholarships or loans for employees’ children. An employer may award one or more scholarships a year, on a merit or need basis, to the children of employees, or may actually pay or lend some amount of tuition for each employee’s child who attends college.
- Including family issues as part of an employee assistance program. An employer may offer seminars and workshops on parenting, keeping kids off drugs, education, and other family-oriented topics.
I realize that it is highly unlikely that an organization can implement every policy on the checklist, but there is no doubt that every firm can take steps that provides a more robust family-friendly work environment. If your organization is taking steps to promote these practices and you’re based out of Northern Virginia, you should consider applying for the CARE Awards before May 15. Either way, I hope that you will take the time to examine the suggestions and explore what policies will work best for your organization.