Employment and Jobs

How can I recognize and respond to my employees’ caregiving responsibilities?

November 18, 2020  • Vivian Vázquez, Ranita Jain & Jenny Weissbourd

Seven Workforce Questions that Are Top of Mind During COVID-19: A Resource for Small Businesses

#6. How can I recognize and respond to my employees’ caregiving responsibilities?

This question is an excerpt from our downloadable brief, “Seven Workforce Questions that Are Top of Mind During COVID-19: A Resource for Small Businesses.”

Long before the pandemic, businesses of all sizes and their workers expressed frustration about lack of affordable, high-quality childcare impacting attendance and productivity. COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges facing working parents. Many workers have been pulled into new care responsibilities during the pandemic, such as taking care of children whose schools have gone virtual or whose daycares have closed, or helping a sick relative. Below, we share steps small businesses are taking to support workers with care responsibilities.

Adapt your scheduling practices to better meet the needs of caregivers

If possible, provide a flexible or modified schedule that workers can align with their caregiving responsibilities. For hourly workers, setting regular, predictable schedules and posting these at least two weeks in advance can help workers line up care. It’s helpful to communicate these policies to your entire workforce so that everyone understands what the policies are, regardless of if they are currently utilizing them.

Help your employees access affordable care

Some employers provide care referral assistance as a benefit. You can do this through a formal program, or simply learn about the childcare options near your workplace and share a list with your workers. Other employers, such as Best Buy, offer back-up care, purchasing, subsidizing, or negotiating a discount for a set number of days of care through a childcare center or an in-home provider platform like Care.com. This can help to ensure that your employees won’t miss work or quit their jobs during the pandemic if they don’t have access to childcare. If you reduce your employees’ childcare costs, you may also be eligible for a tax break. Small business owners can also offer dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts to help employees save money by paying for childcare with pre-tax earnings. You may also want to help your employees vet their child care for COVID-19 safety and quality.

Use your voice to advocate

Businesses, particularly small businesses, are unlikely to be able to adequately address their employees’ childcare needs on their own. And yet, childcare challenges and concerns limit employees’ abilities to contribute at work and can create costs for businesses. Some small business owners have used their voices to push for state and federal policy changes to ensure that all working parents have access to quality, affordable childcare.

Small Business Perspectives

“We really care about work-life balance. We make the schedule on Sundays, and let employees know that they have until then to request time off. We’re not restrictive, it can be a week or three months. Being flexible is important to us.” –Shawn Parker, Co-Owner, Connie’s Chicken and Waffles


IMPORTANT: Please note that this resource is not legal guidance about workplace safety. This guide does not provide technical information about regulations that businesses must comply with for reopening. Individual business owners are responsible for complying with their local jurisdiction’s evolving guidance related to COVID-19. The National Safety Council provides a range of resources that you may find helpful, including federal guidelines and state-specific resources regarding COVID-19 and the workplace.


Seven Workforce Questions that Are Top of Mind During COVID-19

  1. How can I reassure my workers that we are following appropriate safety guidelines?
  2. How can I create an equitable and inclusive environment for my employees and customers?
  3. How can I help my employees communicate and implement safety measures with customers?
  4. How can I help my employees manage increased stress?
  5. How can I help my employees get to work safely?
  6. How can I recognize and respond to my employees’ caregiving responsibilities? (you are here)
  7. How can I support my employees’ financial stability?

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The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.