By Jackie Mader
When the pandemic began to shutter schools and child care centers in early 2020, parents working at the Patterson Law Group in Fort Worth, Texas, were allowed to work from home from the get go. Importantly, they also received a child care subsidy from their employer to help pay for care in their own home. At nearby PMG, a digital marketing agency, employees received a $500 stipend to set up a home workspace and paid time off beyond government minimums. And at Whitley Penn, an accounting firm with several offices in Texas, leaders encouraged parents to set work schedules based on the needs of their children, even if that meant starting work later in the day.
These are just a few of the efforts of a group of business leaders in the Fort Worth area to create family-friendly policies in the midst of the pandemic, a trend that experts hope will endure even after COVID subsides. About 300 companies are participating in The Best Place for Working Parents initiative, a multi-city effort in Texas to help companies adopt policies like onsite child care, parental leave and flexible hours that benefit employees with children. The initiative started before the pandemic but program director Cheraya Pena said she has been pleasantly “shocked” at how businesses adapted and stepped up to help employees due to Covid-19. “The effect of the pandemic on some of this work has been to push the workplace policies five to ten years down the line,” Pena said. “Businesses that would never, ever consider work from home or more supportive health care benefits or onsite childcare… are now doing it because of Covid.”