How Can Employers Optimally Support Employee Caregivers?

September 2, 2020
Matthew Gavidia

In a webinar by the Integrated Benefits Institute, an employer panel discussed perspectives, initiatives, and challenges in their respective caregiving benefits, as well as how the current pandemic has impacted their strategies.

As school districts transition to virtual learning, whether fully or partially, due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), employees nationwide are now tasked with a greater caregiving role in addition to the workload from their employers.

So, how are employers addressing these challenges precipitated by the pandemic?

In a webinar by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), titled, “Caring for Employee Caregivers,” Kelly McDevitt, president of IBI, moderated an employer panel discussion with representatives from Accenture, Alight Solutions, and Ashcroft Inc. that spoke on perspectives, initiatives, and challenges in their respective caregiving benefits, as well as how the current pandemic has impacted their strategies.

Kicking off the webinar, McDevitt indicated that some employers were already considering caregiving implications in their benefit design, but the pandemic further exacerbated the need to address this issue. Julie Wilkes, North American Well-Being & Resilience Lead for Accenture, expanded on this sentiment by highlighting the importance of employee support no matter what external factors are prevalent.

“When we can take care of the family, we know our employees are going to bring their best selves in what they do,” said Wilkes.

Among their available services, Wilkes referenced backup dependent care, employee assistance programs, and programs for children with special needs. However, the issue of time was addressed, with Wilkes saying that having these programs at one’s disposal is not enough as many employees may not have the time to educate themselves and enroll.

To assist employees in leveraging these available resources, Accenture have partnered with a service called Wealthy that works to advise employees on issues relating to even hospital billing. “When you have an advocate who can give you state of art, best-in-class practice advice, it gives you the confidence that you’re doing your best and I think that’s all people want–to do their best for their family and to make the time and show up in times that are meaningful,” said Wilkes.

Speaking next, Kate Nere, human resources manager at Ashcroft Inc., added that her organization utilizes Wealthy as well, which she credits for its ability to delineate issues that may otherwise be overlooked. Additionally, the efficiency of the service was again mentioned as it can save employees time and money through a cost-effectiveness approach on each service being considered.

“Wealthy helps us cut down on the worry and then the employee is here to do the work that we need them to do,” said Nere.

Lastly, Laine Thomas Conway, vice president and Total Reward Product Leader for Alight Solutions, highlighted that like many fellow US workers, she too is undertaking greater caregiver responsibilities as a mother of a sixth grade student. In speaking on her organization’s strategy to support employees in this similar situation, Alight launched a caregiver support solution this year.

Conway said that like Wealthy, Alight's service Cariloop works to provide support for employees through services stretched beyond that of solely dependents, but also everyone in the nontraditional dependent circle, such as aunts and uncles, that may also contribute to an employee’s responsibilities.

“Community plays a big role in our core values and we understood the impact of caregiving beyond the household…your circle is what you make it in today’s world, and we wanted to support nontraditional relationships and break down the barriers when it comes to people in our colleague’s lives,” said Conway.

In addition to Cariloop, Alight’s network team negotiated to bring a caregiving partner into their employee benefits network. Conway referenced a survey in which working parents said that the number 1 impact of remote learning was emotional well-being and stress levels, which 92% of employers indicated as only moderate concerns in their workforce.

“We would say think hard about how you can support your caregivers, and then keep going because we cannot afford to ignore the impact when it comes to retention, engagement, and economic recovery,” said Conway.