Why parental allowance is gaining significance in dwelling care

With the recent addition of paid maternity leave and paid parental leave to its employee benefits package, Total Care Connections is moving away from the industry standard to improve working conditions and increase its recruitment and retention efforts.

Based in Tempe, Arizona, Total Care Connections is a provider of home care and private care services. The company has nearly 400 employees and offices in Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson, Arizona, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For years, Total Care Connections has been looking for ways to make its workplace more attractive to caregivers. The company focused on the real-life changes people typically face.

“Our caring population is made up of hourly workers who often have very few options when it comes to financially covering these big life events,” Total Care Connections CEO Daniel Stringer told Home Health Care News. “One of the greatest events in life can be bringing a new baby into the world through pregnancy, but also through fostering and adoption. We realize that the system is broken. … As a company, we wanted to be part of this solution.”

For context, the US does not have a national policy on paid family leave.

Also, only 4% of the lowest-paid workers in the private sector receive paid leave. Nurses at the lower end of the pay scale typically cannot afford unpaid leave.

Total Care Connections’ new Disability Leave Allowance offers new moms up to six weeks of paid leave after childbirth. Paid parental allowance grants new parents up to two weeks of paid vacation. It is also available to employees who are fostering or adopting a child.

“We have developed two different programs to do this fairly and provide benefits to all of our team members,” Stringer said.

Although recruitment and employee retention are often top priorities for home care providers, it is rare to find companies offering employee benefits that include paid parental leave. One of the reasons for this is the way the industry is structured.

“The home care industry is fragmented,” Stringer said. “They may not have the infrastructure or financial capability to deliver the benefit.”

Still, Stringer believes there is a middle ground that home care providers can take.

“You don’t have to provide six to eight weeks. It could be a little less,” he said. “I think maybe it’s a lack of awareness of the possibility of doing something here rather than doing nothing. Any agency could do something, but I think sometimes it feels like we can’t solve the whole problem, then we don’t solve any of it.”

Home care companies need to start considering what will happen if they don’t invest in the people who work in that industry, Kristen Duell, HCP’s chief marketing officer, told HHCN.

“[Paid parental leave] is something that none of us saw as a trend, but it should be,” she said. “We believe this will make a difference in recruitment and retention. Being able to not be afraid of, “I can make time to take care of my family” is something that makes a difference.”

While paid parental leave is still fairly uncommon, that doesn’t mean providers aren’t inventing other ways to beef up employee benefits packages in general.

“Some that I found really interesting … were things like paid school vacations,” Todd Austin, president of HCP, previously told HHCN. “You can use it to attend school programs, for example. I’ve heard of a handful of agencies offering this perk to ease the pressure of work [parents]so they can attend events and be present for their children.”

Austin noted that home care services also offered back-to-school assistance programs for caregivers with children, and some agencies even included ride-sharing in their benefit packages.

Amedisys Inc. (Nasdaq: AMED) — one of the largest home health care companies in the country — is also listening to employees and looking for ways to better serve the parents who work on its staff.

“That’s why we took a close look at our benefits,” Chris Gerard, CEO of Amedisys, told HHCN. “And there are a lot of extra things we can do, like fertility insurance, that employees want. Longer mourning options, parental leave, stuff like that. These are all things that they ask about and that we are really looking into.”

Regarding Total Care Connections, Stringer believes this upgrade to the company’s benefits package will result in strong recruitment and retention results.

Stringer hopes Total Care Connections can set an example for its industry peers.

“We don’t want to just fulfill the status quo or offer just enough to be competitive,” he said. “We want to go one step further and say, ‘How can we be leaders in some of these areas?'”

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