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Backup, emergency dependent care offerings expected to rise, SHRM finds

Backup (or temporary emergency) care, one of the fastest growing employee benefits, is a useful tool to assist employees when their children become ill during the work week, a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently determined. The survey brief, Backup Care: Alternative Child and Family Care Arrangements, was published in May 2007.

Unscheduled employee absence is a problem—to "some degree" or to a "large degree"—for 65 percent of the organizations surveyed, according to SHRM's 2006 Unscheduled Employee Absenteeism Survey , which was published in December 2006.

The top two causes of employees' unscheduled absences were illness/personal (75 percent of respondents) and family (53 percent). Other causes of absenteeism were child care issues (48 percent), personal or family issues other than illness or child care (46 percent), and an attitude of entitlement (39 percent). Few respondents (nine percent) cited stress as a reason for employee absence.

In 2006, 14 percent of employers (more than twice the proportion in 2005, at six percent) offered emergency/sick child care benefits. Another five percent of employers offered employer-supported child care centers, emergency eldercare (five percent) and worksite child care centers. Only four percent of respondents' companies offered "backup care," but nearly three-fourths of organizations without it were interested in adding such a benefit, SHRM found. "These benefits are gaining recognition as tools that can reduce employee stress and unscheduled absenteeism," observed the survey.

Most SHRM survey respondents (82 percent) expressed little or no knowledge of "temporary care solutions" that employers can offer their employees. Human resource professionals who are aware of "backup care" saw it as a solution for emergency, last-minute child care, primarily for sick children, but few realized that it also can function for adult care. A small number (10 percent of respondents) understood that long-distance eldercare also included backup care.

Considering the proportion of human resource respondents interested in adding backup care, "This suggests that the percentage of U.S. employers offering backup care benefits may continue to grow in the coming years as recognition of the attributes of backup care arrangements increase," SHRM concluded.

For additional information on this and other HR topics, consult CCH Human Resources Management or Personnel Practices/Communications.

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