There are a number of ways that providing space for employees with dependents can support them in their personal and professional lives. Please remember that dependents may be children, elders, or dependents of any age group.
Allow dependents in the workplace
- Allowing infants in the workplace can help employees transition to parenthood and save on early childhood care and education expenses.
- Providing a space for children/dependents in the workplace when child or dependent care or school is closed due to vacation or snow days can save employees with dependents the stress and expense of finding temporary care. The space can also temporarily support employees while they find the needed facilities for dependent care.
- Having dependents in the workplace can change the workplace culture.
- Policies should include guidelines for safety, productivity and what level of dependent’s behavior or health are acceptable in the workplace.
- Providing separate space for employees with on-site dependents can prevent distractions of co-workers.
- Providing information on available resources that can help with locating, accessing and paying for care can help save employees time and stress.
- You may need to flex schedules or give up some productivity to accommodate employees with dependents on-site.
- You can support nursing mothers and their babies with private lactation space, refrigerated space for storing breast milk and information on lactation consultants.
- Onsite peer groups can help support and educate employees dealing with the stress and expenses of dependents. These groups can also build inter-departmental relationships.
Support employees who are pregnant or lactating
In addition to the accommodations employers are required to provide by law, such as space to pump breast milk at work, there are other ways to support employees who are pregnant or lactating. New Moms Health Returns reports a 94.2% retention rate of highly qualified female employees when workplace support programs are put in place.
- Discuss the accommodations and support you’ll provide before the baby is born, to help reassure your employee.
- Provide time and private space with electricity for moms who are breastfeeding or pumping breast milk.
- Provide refrigeration for breast milk.
- Provide a space to clean breast pumps.
- Check whether your workplace uniforms or clothing guidelines can accommodate breastfeeding mothers.
- Stock breastfeeding accessories in your lactation room.
- If you hold an offsite or outdoor event, consider renting a portable lactation room from Mamava or DayOne (in the interest of transparency, please note that Mamava, a Vermont company, is represented on the VBSR board of directors at the time of this writing).
Allowing employees to work from home, either regularly or occasionally, may help reduce employees’ dependent care expenses or concerns.
- Allowing remote work can reduce absenteeism when dependents are sick or when school and care facilities are closed.
- May help reduce employees’ dependent care expenses or concerns.
- Regular remote work may reduce the need for larger facilities and related facility expenses.
- If employees need to use their personal tools or equipment for remote work, may be an unequal benefit for those who don’t have or cannot afford the tools/equipment.
- It’s helpful to have clear policies (e.g. computer virus and surge protection; who pays for off-site phone/data charges or printer ink; how often employees may work off-site, etc.).
- If some departments cannot take advantage of remote work, the benefit may cause an unequal culture.
Resources for remote work during COVID-19:
- VBSR Webinar: Mastering Virtual Meetings, Webinars, and Remote Workshops (4/2/20) – watch here.
- VBSR Webinar: Transitioning your Business to a Remote Workplace (3/30/20) – watch here.
- A Guide to Managing Remote Workers (Harvard Business Review)
- 5 Tips for Managing Remotely During COVID-19
- How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers
- NPI’s Remote Work Guide
Support Dependent Care
To help employees access child care or other dependent care, employers can, by themselves or in collaboration with other area employers, pay to hold one slot open in a local child or dependent care center; found or co-found a child or dependent care center — in-house or elsewhere; offer financial assistance with dependent care expenses. Even accommodations in scheduling or transportation can help with dependent care needs.
Also see some of the tools in the Expand your Workforce with Inclusivity section.