Juggling work with the responsibility of caring for others, whether young or old, is often a significant drain on people. You can ease the load by helping your employees find elder care and child care resources. Without such assistance, some employees are left to work a reduced schedule to meet the demands of those who they care for. You will directly benefit when your employees have access to family care resources: Job satisfaction and productivity can increase, and employee turnover can decrease.
One of the most valuable elder care and child care resources you can offer is a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA). DCFSAs are similar to health care spending accounts; the money your employees spend through this employer-sponsored plan comes from their pretax dollars. When you offer a DCFSA through payroll deductions, your employees can set aside up to $5,000 per year in pretax money.
Qualified expenses include child and adult daytime care, home care, summer camps and after-school programs. Your employees spend pretax dollars throughout the year, and as they incur costs, they apply for reimbursements. There are no carryover benefits, however, so employees have to plan carefully to avoid losing any money. Your employees can use the DCFSA in tandem with dependent-care tax credits, but the use of one program affects the other’s available benefits. You should encourage your employees to compare plans and determine which is best for them given their income level and tax bracket.
Support Your Employees’ Needs
As an employer, you can create a supportive working environment that allows your employees to maximize the elder care and child care resources at their disposal. For example, most cities have elderly community centers with low-cost (or no-cost) activities and care options. However, if the community center opens at 10 a.m. and you require your employees to be in the office by 9 a.m., you’ve eliminated that resource for your employees. Allowing employees to work flexible schedules and at-home hours frees them to use the resources available to them.
Have your human resources staff create a packet of information about state and local care plans. If you don’t have an HR staff, your insurance broker may be willing to do this for you. Most states offer programs to help families pay for child care and/or adult care, but every program is different, and each requires a different set of forms and qualifying documents. Researching these programs can feel overwhelming to some of your employees, so by offering a packet of information about their options, you’ll help reduce the stress that comes with being a new parent or adult caregiver.
Of course, if you have a sufficient amount of employees with care needs, you can create an in-house program. Some employers have found success in creating a mixed care facility where elderly adults volunteer time to help one or two paid workers care for children. Employer-provided care comes with a cost, but the programs don’t have to be a free benefit. You can encourage your employees to spend their DCFSA dollars at your employer-provided day care program.
Your employees are facing adult care and child care challenges, and therefore, so are you. Though it’s an option, you don’t have to invest in an expensive in-house program to help your employees find the resources they need. Tax-deferred spending accounts, flexible hours and easy access to existing programs will help ease employee stress and increase overall productivity.
Dylan Murray has an MBA from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University. He is a licensed insurance agent in California, but he works as a professional researcher and writer reporting on business trends in estate law, insurance and private security. Dylan has worked as a script analyst with the Sundance Institute and the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles. He lives in San Diego, California, and Marseille, France.