What Unum’s new caregiving benefit says about employer priorities

The benefits firm recently upped its commitment to caregiving employees.
By: | January 21, 2021 • 2 min read
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Unum is joining a growing number of employers taking aim at employees’ caregiving challenges with a new benefit.

The company just rolled out a new benefit providing five consecutive business days of paid leave for employees who need time away from work to care for a spouse, child or parent due to a serious health condition. Full- or part-time employees who have been employed with Unum for at least a year are eligible to use the benefit, the benefits firm says.

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It went into effect Jan. 1. Although the company expects the leave policy will be especially helpful as its employees continue to deal with caregiving challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was working to implement the benefit prior the pandemic, says Rob Hecker, president of global total rewards at Unum.

“Caregiving takes a toll on workers and their emotional, physical and financial wellbeing,” he says. “This benefit is one way we can better support our diverse workforce through all stages of life.”

Several other employers have been zeroing in on—and enhancing—benefit offerings, including caregiving, as a result of the pandemic. TIAA, for instance, just significantly expanded backup child- and eldercare support for all of its 16,500 associates and added an employer contribution to its dependent-care flexible spending account. The financial services firm’s employees now have access to enhanced backup care programs—up to 60 visits per associate each year, with a $100 per-day reimbursement for out-of-network care.  Prior to the pandemic, TIAA offered employees 20 days of backup care per child, per calendar year.

Related: Here’s how TIAA revamped caregiving benefits during COVID-19

The closure of many schools, daycares and summer camps—and concerns over safety—has made balancing home and work life especially difficult for working parents in the midst of COVID-19. Meanwhile, employees caring for elderly relatives or others are facing access challenges as well. Recent research from Unum found the toll of caregiving is far-reaching, with caregivers experiencing stress, anxiety or depression (61%), exhaustion (49%) and financial strain (44%).

Related: How COVID-19 is aggravating the caregiving crisis

Providing flexibility, paid time off and caregiving benefits—like resources or access to backup care, for instance—all can help, experts say.

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“It’s a good time to take a hard look at existing policies and employer benefits surrounding caregiving, which is one part of a larger question that, in the wake of this unprecedented health and economic crisis, all employers should ask themselves: Are you adequately accommodating your employees’ needs during this new normal?” Larry Nisenson, senior vice president and chief commercial officer for insurance firm Genworth, recently told HRE.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.