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August 18, 2020

How to Address the COVID Childcare Crisis Through Employee Benefits

Around the country, the new school year is starting – but not everyone is heading back to the classroom. Parents have already been dealing with a childcare crisis brought on by COVID-19, and it doesn’t look like this problem will be abating anytime soon. Instead, employers may need to address the issue using employee benefits.

Schools, Day Care and the Impossibility of Social Distancing

Young children can be especially bad at washing their hands properly, not touching their faces, and other measures suggested to keep COVID-19 under control. Even during the best of times, viruses often spread through schools and daycare centers rapidly.

Given the health concerns, many schools are opting for online classes, while some parents are deciding to homeschool their children. Those schools that do hold in-person classes this fall may have to send students home or employ quarantines if an outbreak occurs. In fact, this is already happening. ABC News reports that at least 2,400 students and staff have already been infected or are self-isolating because of exposure.

Other childcare services, such as daycares, may experience similar issues. According to the Miami Herald, daycare centers in multiple states had to close again after reopening due to COVID-19 cases and concerns.

This presents a challenge for the many working parents who depend on schools and daycare centers for childcare.

Providing Benefits to Help Working Parents

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is in effect through December 31, 2020, covered employers must provide paid leave for certain reasons related to COVID-19. In addition to two weeks of sick leave, employees who have been employed for at least 30 days are also eligible for up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave if they need to provide care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed because of COVID-19. Employees may have additional rights under local or state laws.

The 10 weeks provided under the FFCRA may seem generous, but given the length of this pandemic, it may not be nearly enough for many working parents. In addition to the benefits required by law, employers should consider offering other benefits that will help parents get back to work.

  • Flexible Hours: Parents may not be able to stick to a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule right now. In fact, any regular schedule might be impossible since schools and daycare centers that open could close again or send children home any day. Flexibility is essential.
  • Work-from-Home: Many companies switched to telecommuting to comply with stay-at-home orders. As these orders are eased, work-from-home arrangements may still be needed, this time to help working parents juggle their responsibilities.
  • Paid Time Off: Parents may need to take time off. Consider providing generous paid family leave and personal days. Although this may cost companies some money now, it may also help with long-term employee retention and recruitment goals.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: EAPs can provide key resources to employees on a variety of issues, including childcare. EAPs may also help with some of the other problems caused or exacerbated by COVID-19, including stress and anxiety.

Need help with your strategy? Reach out to the Heffernan Insurance Brokers’ Employee Benefits team.

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