How do I help baby care and eldercare wants of workers? Ask HR

Johnny C Taylor Jr

Johnny C. Taylor Jr tackles your human resources questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society and author of “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: Since the onset of the pandemic, we have struggled to staff our medium-sized business. Many of our former workers and candidates cite a lack of child care and elder care as a barrier to working full time. What can we do to support their needs? – Harmony

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Amid the current labor shortage, many organizations are quickly realizing just how competing personal responsibilities, like caregiving, are affecting the availability of workers. As many as 1 in 5 full-time workers juggle both work and caregiving responsibilities for their children, parents, or both. This has led many employees to reevaluate their priorities and resign from their jobs amid the pandemic.

Some solutions are available to support their needs in terms of creative scheduling or employee leave. Low to no-cost options can include flexible work arrangements such as compressed workweeks, teleworking, or flexible scheduling to allow workers to better accommodate their caregiving duties. Allowing for unpaid and paid leave affords workers additional time off for caregiving needs beyond regular paid time off. For organizations where paid leave might be prohibitive the concept of leave donations/sharing allows employees to donate accrued, unused leave to a general pool or directly to other employees who experience caregiving emergencies. Also, when appropriate, consider allowing employees to share jobs or reduce their workload. Or arrange for them to move from a full-time to part-time schedule if business needs allow.

Organizations have various options in assisting the financial burdens associated with caregiving responsibilities. The average cost of center-based care for an infant is $1,230 per month. Your organization could help offset the cost by providing a child care subsidy or partnering with day care centers to offer a discount. Offering a flexible spending account as part of a benefits package provide employees a tax-free option for certain dependent care expenses. The average cost of nursing homes is $8,365 per month for a single room. Offering long-term care insurance benefits can help employees pay for their parent’s care facilities or home health aides. Additionally, your company could help pay for some or all of the insurance premiums.

Often, people have difficulty finding a caregiving provider to meet their needs. Partnering with a vendor can help employees locate either the primary or backup child care or eldercare services they need.

I encourage you to be creative and find a few ways to support your employees’ caregiving needs. Providing these benefits can help attract and retain workers, while also boosting morale and loyalty to your organization. Best of luck to you!

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Q: My supervisor asked me to do something that I know is in direct opposition to our area manager’s wishes. Should I follow the orders of my direct supervisor? Can I get in trouble if I knowingly contradict a directive from a higher manager? -Roger

Taylor: The workplace can sometimes be complex especially if you are caught between conflicting directives. It may even seem like you are bound to get in trouble with either choice. Given that the request stems from your direct supervisor to do something that may contradict your area manager’s wishes, it is likely your supervisor would be the one held accountable and not you as you were following their instruction.

Start by addressing your concern about a request with your direct supervisor. It may be a simple case of miscommunication. There are times when the proverbial “right hand does not speak to the left.” Ask your supervisor clarifying questions to ensure you understand the request. You might not be privy to recent changes in your area manager’s expectations. So, it may be as simple as asking if something has changed.

If you find this is not the case and your supervisor still wants you to proceed, review your workplace policies. As long as the directive is not illegal or unethical, you should follow his instructions. But here’s a tip: document all of the details before you do it. Take detailed notes with dates and times of conversations with your supervisor and retain any electronic communication in case you are asked about it later.

If you’re still in doubt about the next steps, speak with HR as they may be able to offer guidance. Hopefully, these steps will make you feel more confident in how to proceed. Best of luck!

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