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Unworkable

Employer-sponsored tutoring? Unique benefits are aimed at pandemic parenting

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 23, 2020
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New benefits to help working parents are uneven. Rose Conlon for Marketplace
Unworkable

Employer-sponsored tutoring? Unique benefits are aimed at pandemic parenting

Meghan McCarty Carino Nov 23, 2020
Heard on:
New benefits to help working parents are uneven. Rose Conlon for Marketplace
HTML EMBED:
COPY

With many kids home at least part of the time in remote school and daycare more difficult to find, the pandemic has created a crisis for working parents. While some employers are stepping up with new benefits to help, many workers don’t have access to even the most basic support.

Stefanie Coleman and her husband Phil have their hands full, keeping their 4-year-old Alice engaged with remote preschool, caring for their 1-year-old, Scarlet, and working full-time from their home in New York City. Coleman is a business consultant for business services firm PWC and her husband works in technology.

“It’s been a really interesting six months,” she said, “certainly with its highs, and it’s lows.”

They make it work with a nanny and a lot of support from their employers.

Coleman can set her own hours – often working late at night or early in the morning around her daughters’ schedules.

PWC allows employees to reduce their hours, compress work weeks into four days or take a partially paid sabbatical for up to six months. It doubled emergency childcare subsidies and offers online learning resources for kids.

“They have little programs that can keep your kids engaged during the day and things like that,” said Coleman. “So that’s been really great.”

Across the country, employers are offering unique new benefits for working families struggling through the pandemic: Bank of America is paying $75-$100 a day toward childcare for eligible employees, Dell Technologies offers small group learning pods and Ford motor company provides an hour of free tutoring a week and a virtual study hall kids can call into, staffed by Ford volunteers.

A Marketplace Edison Research poll found a little more than half of respondents had been given greater flexibility in scheduling, 26% had been given additional paid time off and 17% had been given resources to help with childcare or remote schooling by their employers.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, has your employer given you:

“When our employees feel like their well-being is cared for, and when our employees can be their best, then they can do their best work for Ford,” said Amy Hall, talent programs leader for Ford.

Parents of school-age kids are often in the prime of their career. But the increased demands of the pandemic have been devastating, particularly to women, who have picked up the bulk of extra labor in the home and left the work force in alarming numbers

Caitlyn Collins, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said the new employer supports for working parents are great but, “what we end up seeing is widening disparities between workers who have the supports and workers who do not.”

Like James Cox, a mother in Oakland, California who’s worked as a restaurant server and bartender for almost two decades. She feels lucky just to get a day off once in a while.

“I had my baby on a Tuesday and my boss called me on Friday and asked me when I was coming back to work,” she said.

Benefits to support parents are often seen as perks and usually awarded to workers in high-demand, high-wage white collar industries as a recruiting or retention strategy, even as many low-wage workers are left without even the most basic benefits. The U.S. is the only wealthy country that doesn’t guarantee workers any paid time off.

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