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Backup care acts as a safety net for employees who care for children, adults or elderly dependents by providing temporary care so employees can get to work when their regular care-giving arrangements are unavailable (for example, school holidays or closures, caregiver vacations, dependents recovering from illness or surgery).
Research released by Work Options Group, a Colorado-based company that specializes in corporate-sponsored backup care, indicates that the employee benefit reduces stress and unscheduled absenteeism and improves productivity and loyalty among employees.
Below are key findings from the 2008 Backup Care Survey, which was issued to all employees who used backup care through Work Options Group between March 1 and May 31, 2008. More than 1,200 individuals completed the survey.
When Backup Care Is Not Available
If the backup care program was not offered by your employer, what would you have done instead?
Missed work to provide care for my loved one.
Conducted an independent search for short-term care.
Asked friends or family to provide care for my loved one.
Other (respondents listed “worked from home,” “changed my work schedule” and “brought my child to work”).
Source: 2008 Backup Care Survey, Work Options Group.
Among workers who were provided with access to backup care services:
“Backup care addresses a very real issue for working families, who otherwise struggle to find trusted, reliable, affordable short-term care for their loved ones,” said Cindy Carrillo, founder and CEO of Work Options Group. “It’s a program that employees appreciate and use, and the workplace benefits include reduced stress, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, enhanced morale and improved loyalty.”
SHRM Video Backup Child and Elder CareKathryn Fisk, CHRO of Baptist Hospital South Florida, discusses how and why her organization instituted a backup dependent care program and flexible scheduling.• View this video
Growing Interest in Backup Care
“Companies run as lean as possible; they are under constant pressure to produce more with less and to retain top talent," Carrillo added. "At the same time, employees juggle both work commitments and family care responsibilities for children and aging loved ones, especially as the population lives longer and is more dependent on family for assistance.”
Over the past year, the number of companies offering the backup care program through Work Options Group has increased 30 percent, and the company anticipates scheduling 450,000 hours of backup care during 2008. Of the backup care that was scheduled over the past six months, 74 percent occurred in the home of the employee or his or her family member and 26 percent occurred in a child care center.
By the Numbers: Dependent Care Options
According to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2008 Employee Benefits survey report, 31 percent of HR professionals reported that their organizations allowed employees to bring their children to work in an emergency, and 18 percent offered a child care referral service. These types of benefits, which help the employee at a minimal cost to the organization, were more commonly offered than costlier benefits such as access to backup child care services (6 percent), subsidized child care center (6 percent), nonsubsidized child care center (4 percent) and consortium child care center (1 percent), which is a center sharing the costs and responsibilities with several companies.
Regarding elder care options, the most frequently offered was an elder care referral service, which 20 percent of HR professionals indicated was available to employees at their organizations. Access to backup elder care services was offered by 5 percent.
Dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used to offset the cost of child care and elder care. Dependent care FSAs allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars that can be reimbursed for dependent care expenses. These accounts are popular with employees since the tax benefit offsets some of the expenses of dependent care. For 2008, the maximum election is $5,000 per family for the plan year or $2,500 if married and filing separate federal income tax returns. Three out of four HR professionals (75 percent) indicated that their organizations offered this benefit.
Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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