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Can Companies Afford Not to Offer Backup Care?

POSTED BY
Scott Healy on January 07, 2019 04:03 PM

Care and work don’t exist in silos. You have to work to afford care, and you need care in order to work. But historically, it wasn’t your employer’s problem if your regular care plans fell through – school is closed, your kid is sick, your dad fell and broke his hip, the nanny goes on vacation. It was always the employee’s responsibility to find backup care and bear the full cost – both financial and emotional.

For tens of millions of workers, juggling the demands of care and work can feel like a zero-sum game. It’s expensive and stressful and leads to missed work days and decreased productivity. For business, that translates into tens of billions in losses per year.

Businesses are starting to bet on care benefits. Companies like Best Buy understand that care is a universal human need and are now providing backup care benefits to all of their U.S. employees. With a set number of company-subsidized backup care days available to them per year, employees get flexibility and choice in arranging affordable, high-quality care for children and adults– to fill the gaps in regular care routines. By leading with care, forward-thinking companies are helping people navigate life’s uncertainties, and strengthening both their business results and company culture as a result.

Momentum for employer-subsidized backup care is accelerating. And, it’s becoming an essential employee benefit. Here’s why.

Without backup care, employers are paying a huge cost for absenteeism and presenteeism

Employees feel stressed and unfocused at work when they’re worried about arranging backup care. Or, they might not show up to work at all. Each year, caregiving-related absenteeism costs U.S. businesses billions in lost productivity. The figures are even more dire for the cost of presenteeism – when employees come to work but don’t perform at full capacity – with some estimates putting the loss at more than 10 times that of absenteeism. Backup care can significantly lower these costs by alleviating employee stress and enabling them to bring their fully engaged selves to work. 

The best employees only consider companies with the best benefits

Companies that offer backup care to their employees are the ones that typically land on the “Best Workplaces for Parents” lists (like this one from Fortune). They’re the organizations that attract the best people...and keep them there. In a tight labor market, this is critical. In a recent Care@Work survey, 60 percent of employees of all ages said they would leave a job for one with better family care benefits, and among Millennials that number jumps to 83 percent. Which begs the question: can companies afford not to offer backup care?

Millennials value care more than any generation before them...because they need it more

Millennials make up more than one-third of the American workforce; they’re the largest working generational group. They’re also in a unique generational life stage, “sandwiched” between managing care both for their young children and their aging parents. More than a million U.S. Millennials become mothers for the first time each year, which means there are now more than 17 million moms in this generation. At the same time, there are nearly 10 million unpaid Millennial adult and senior caregivers nationwide, according to AARP. This is a big reason why a majority of Millennials prioritize benefits over pay raises compared to older generations and look to their employers to help them manage it all. Backup care gives Millennial employees of all backgrounds peace of mind to know that their loved ones young and old are being cared for, and that the companies they work for care for them.

An “all collar” benefit strengthens business and company culture

Care doesn’t discriminate based on age, lifestage, occupation, or job title. At some point, all employees will need backup care, be they full- or part-time, salaried or hourly. But, it can’t just be offered to the desk-dwellers at corporate HQ. The fact that all people share the same human need for care cannot be ignored. When Best Buy offers backup care to everyone from the C-suite to the Geek Squad, they’re creating benefit equity among their entire workforce. In turn, that makes for happier, more productive employees – as well as customers and clients.

Workplace gender equality requires action, not words

Diversity programs and gender equality initiatives are de rigueur in corporate America. And make no mistake, that’s a very good thing. Research has reliably shown a connection between gender diversity and a company’s financial performance. But true gender equality can’t happen unless companies address the care inequity in society. Historically, women have assumed the bulk of the caregiving responsibilities for children and adults. At some point in their careers, U.S. mothers, more than fathers, have had to either reduce their work hours, take time off from work, or quit a job in order to care for a child or adult family member. Backup care frees women to be more present and productive at work and, ultimately, strengthens workforces and economies.

As the population ages, the need for care grows

Society will soon be put to a generational test. By 2030, every American Baby Boomer will be age 65 or older. And by 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and up will nearly double, to more than 83 million, according to U.S. Census projections. What this means is that more working Americans will assume greater responsibility in caring for their aging parents and family members, and they will look to backup care as a vital resource for support. 

Employees are demanding that companies share their values, morals, and ethics, that they be a force for good in the world. They crave authenticity and humanity. And nothing is more human than care. In the end, companies’ contributions to the care infrastructure will drive job growth, upward mobility, and economic opportunity. Building that infrastructure means employers must provide care benefits employees need most. Backup care is the essential place to start.

Scott Healy

As EVP and GM of Global B2B & HomePay, Scott is responsible for the Company's worldwide Care@Work enterprise business; Care.com HomePay, the leader in household payroll and tax services; and Marketing and Recruiting solutions for companies in the care industry.