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9 Areas of Focus for Employers Right Now: Parts 5 and 6

Thanks for tuning back in as we share our most noteworthy reflections around how priorities have changed for folks in this industry. We hope you caught parts 1-2 and 3-4. After over six months of combatting COVID-19, we have figured a lot out, but questions remain. Here we are with numbers five and six on our list of key things employers should be focusing on.

5. Women in the Workforce

Policies like maternal leave and breastfeeding accommodations have long been debated, but this year women are facing even more pressure. For one, it’s been reported that women continue to shoulder the burden of having children while working at home. I am sure there are plenty of involved dads out there, but it would appear that women are more often being tasked with homeschooling, activities, meals, etc. and are more often interrupted by children during the workday. Working mothers may be struggling to keep up with the demands of work and home, and feeling like they have to choose. We hope that once we start seeing consistent success in education during the pandemic, and eventually vaccines, women will gain back their confidence. However, employers should be thinking about how to be flexible with working mothers so that they don’t have to take leave, as re-engagement will be difficult.

Another hot topic related to women is the issue of pregnancy during these COVID times. Many pregnant women have extra fear of being exposed to the virus and are likely to err on the side of caution, meaning they may be reluctant to return to the workplace. Things get tricky here, as pregnancy is not a disability in the eyes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and therefore does not offer accommodation to pregnant women. Further, because of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers cannot single out pregnant employees. This conundrum has several states trying to fill this pregnancy gap in upcoming legislation. Finally, let us not forget, as employers, about single women lacking a support system at home.

6. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

I got a lot of value out of one Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) session focused on Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and I thought I would share. EAPs are a severely under-utilized tool. This is due to lack of awareness, stigma around mental health and addiction, company culture, confidentiality concerns, and accessibility or time constraints. Many employees don’t realize the amount of free or discounted services associated with EAPs, with costs being another barrier.  However, as we saw, mental and behavioral health problems are rising at an unprecedented rate, and EAPs could be a critical mitigating factor, but only if they are leveraged.

When it comes to EAPs, you should:

  • Ensure managers are adequately trained on the program(s) offered
  • Partner with your provider to increase communications and remove obstacles
  • Link EAP access to other HR programs such as wellness initiatives
  • Monitor program effectiveness through regular surveys and performance checks
  • Check in with employees before, during and after an EAP request – did they find the resources they were looking for?

We may see EAPs transform from a “nice to have” to a “must-have” in the future. If that’s the case, all of us in this industry need to understand how to better drive utilization, because it’s clearly not enough to simply provide one. Spring can help with this!

We’ll be back soon with our #7 and beyond.

 

About the Author
Christine Culgin
Director of Marketing at Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company

Christine Culgin is Spring Consulting Group,  Director of Marketing. She studied Spanish and Economics at Lafayette College and later went on to receive her master's degree in global marketing communications and advertising from Emerson College. Christine specializes in B2B marketing and handles content creation, email marketing, social media, blogging, SEO and event management at Spring.

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