Should Associations Set the Precedent in Parent-Friendly Policies?
The woes of working parents are a frequent topic in politics and the media these days, and the issues range from the steep costs of childcare to the absence of paid family leave. Some forward-thinking companies are addressing these hardships by enacting family-friendly policies. Should associations follow suit?
On Monday night, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sparred over, well, just about everything. Although I didn’t catch the entire 90-minute debate—is anyone else experiencing election exhaustion?—I did watch snippets while I was prepping Tuesday night’s dinner, folding clothes, and filling out school forms. One word I was surprised to hear was “agree.” Granted, it only came up a couple of times, but one of those instances was in their opening remarks, in reference to affordable childcare.
That access to quality, affordable childcare—an issue that many American families grapple with—is getting so much attention in this election cycle is significant. Countless studies and reports find that quality childcare is hard to find and difficult to pay for. In fact, according to a recent report from the research organization New America, on average, full-time care for kids, ranging from infancy to four years old, costs more than the average in-state college tuition. The average cost for full-time daycare is $9,589, while the average cost of an in-home caregiver or nanny jumps to $28,353.
That means, that Americans—who are likely fairly young in their careers and perhaps low on the pay scale—are paying the equivalent of college tuition for their kids to attend daycare. And it’s having an effect on the labor market.
“When parents can’t find affordable, quality child care, their only alternatives are to cut back on work hours, seek alternative work arrangements, look for care on the unregulated, cheaper ‘gray market,’ rely on an informal network of families, friends, and neighbors, or even exit the labor market completely,” the researchers conveyed to Bloomberg.
Why should associations care?
Chances are your association—or the trade or industry it serves—employs some parents who are experiencing stresses related to childcare. And, as the professional groups for the trades and industries that they serve, shouldn’t associations also be setting the example for how to come alongside their working parents? Plus, if associations are super rigid on their policies concerning their working parents, they might be missing out on recruiting talented staff—or retaining them.
Although eliminating the burden of childcare costs probably isn’t within an association’s power, enacting other policies that would help remove some of the hardship is within its abilities. Earlier this month, Working Mother released its list of 100 Best Companies. These are companies that both filled out an extensive survey (400 questions) and met a handful of requirements, including offering telecommuting, flextime, and paid maternity leave policies. The majority of these companies also offer paid leave for fathers and compressed work schedules.
“It’s one thing to put flexible work policies in place, but you also have to create a culture that values a healthy work-life balance and makes working moms and dads feel comfortable taking time to care for their kids,” writes Forbes contributor Zeynep Ilgaz.
She recommends that employers go above and beyond offering flexible work policies to actually encouraging them. To that end, she suggests removing the stigma of flextime. If possible, she recommends providing employee-assistance programs, such as childcare or adoption assistance. Employers should also invest in onsite wellness programs, and they should widen these perks to nonparents as well.
“When you acknowledge the importance of your employees’ personal lives, they feel valued and understood,” Ilgaz writes. “And knowing that the company supports their family keeps them productive and focused on giving their best effort while they’re at work.”
How does your association stack up among some of these 100 Best Companies? Where does your association have room to grow? Please leave your comments below.