COVID-19 undoubtedly has elevated the critical role child care plays in the functionality of today’s U.S. workforce. With many schools switching to virtual learning and most “non-essential” workers being sent to work from home, businesses of every size and industry have experienced the unprecedented impact of employees juggling the responsibilities of both child care and work – and have risen to address this challenge in new and innovative ways.
The Best Place for Working Parents® has compiled stories from several family-friendly Fort Worth employers that pivoted quickly during COVID-19 to increase support for their working parents who were tasked with navigating new unknowns associated with child care, health concerns, and virtual learning, while maintaining professional obligations stretching from Spring into the Fall of 2020.
We are pleased to share a few unique stories from our Best Place for Working Parents® business network on how and why certain businesses were compelled to help their employees thrive as the country continues to wrestle with how best to meet the child care needs of working parents.
Bank of America
WHY: Pre-COVID, Bank of America had in place a family-friendly back-up care benefit for those times when their employees’ regular child (and/or adult) care arrangements became temporarily unavailable. Deemed as “essential service workers” amid stay-at-home orders, Bank of America pivoted quickly to support their working parents of all ranks who were impacted by school closures and child care changes by creating a new child care benefit that streamlined the process of reimbursement for child care support by the Bank.
While discussing this new benefit, Bank of America’s Fort Worth Market President, Mike Pavell said, “At Bank of America, we support our employees’ wellness – physical, emotional and financial. We realize that managing personal and professional responsibilities can pose stressful challenges for many of our teammates. That’s why Bank of America offers a variety of benefits and resources, including expanding our back-up care to ensure that our teammates are taken care of so they can continue to best serve our clients.”
WHEN: Beginning in March, Bank of America, a Best Place for Working Parents® business, pivoted to create a new child care benefit that would directly improve the lives of their working parents by streamlining the process of reimbursement for child care and by redefining the definition of a traditional child care provider.
WHAT: To help employees with children who were impacted by coronavirus-related closures, the back-up care program with Bright Horizons was expanded to include an allowance of up to 50 days and reimbursement of $100 a day for employees who secured their own care providers through June 30, 2020. Recognizing the continued impact of limited child care, Bank of America continued to offer the opportunity to receive reimbursement for securing their own care providers when working either at home or in the office through the summer.
In response to the back-to-school learning environment in the U.S., the company has further expanded these support tools for both parents and children, with a tailored approach for the fall, back-to-school season and environment in the U.S.
WHY: For an organization that prides itself on providing a safe, nurturing, and engaging learning environment for children, Lena Pope leveraged its strengths and extended a creative option for a small handful of their employees who could not work from home during COVID.
WHEN & HOW: Beginning in September 2020, Lena Pope began offering a supervised remote learning area on its campus for employees who could not work from home (specifically, Lena Pope’s Early Learning Center employees).
HOW: Employees are able to continue to meet their professional demands without taking any vacation/sick time while their child can continue to learn in a safe, supervised remote learning environment at the same physical location their parent is working.
WHY: Sensing the need and having the space, SigmaPro transformed an existing conference room into a “temporary onsite remote learning” space to serve working parents who had used up all of their emergency FMLA in the course of juggling their professional and personal responsibilities amid COVID-related school and child care disruptions. In regards to their benefit, Vivian Allen, SigmaPro’s Support Manager, remarked that after lasting through the Summer and then being faced with the reality that most public school districts would delay in-person instruction for at least till October, “we knew we had the capacity to support our employees in a creative way by providing a safe place and care for their children.”
WHEN: Beginning in July, SigmaPro surveyed employees to determine the need and desire for a temporary child care support. Allen says, “At SigmaPro, we do operate as a family. So, when some of our employees were really struggling, we knew it was time to move on a desire we’ve had for a while to offer a child care benefit. In surveying our employees and listening to their feedback, we actually were able to co-develop a childcare benefit that actually wanted and needed! That process was invaluable.”
HOW: SigmaPro employees repurposed an upstairs conference room at their main Fort Worth facility and used employee feedback to structure the space and to determine the hours that they needed to hire for in order to properly care for the children of working parents. Paid contractors were slotted to meet needs and even transformed the conference room into a child-friendly space, much like a school classroom. Parents are encouraged to visit their children during their work breaks and can adjust their care needs as schedules change.