Why The Paid Parental Leave Benefit Is Gaining Traction In Home-Based Care

With the recent additions of paid pregnancy disability leave and paid parental leave to its employee benefits package, Total Care Connections is moving away from the industry standard as a way to improve working conditions and bolster its recruitment and retention efforts.

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

For years, Total Care Connections had been looking for ways to strengthen the appeal of its workplace to caregivers. While doing this, the company zeroed in on the real-world life changes that people commonly face.

“Our caregiving population is made up of hourly workers who oftentimes have very few options when it comes to trying to financially cover these big life events,” Total Care Connections CEO Daniel Stringer told Home Health Care News. “One of life’s biggest events can be bringing a new baby into the world through pregnancy, but also through foster care and adoption. We recognize that the system is broken … we wanted to become a part of that solution as a company.”

For context, the U.S. does not have a national paid family leave policy.

Plus, when it comes to the lowest-paid private-sector workers, only 4% get paid leave. Caregivers who are on the lower end of the pay-scale typically can’t afford unpaid leave.

Total Care Connections’ new pregnancy disability leave benefit will provide up to six weeks of paid leave for new moms after giving birth. The paid parental leave benefit gives new parents up to two weeks of paid leave. It’s also available to employees who foster or adopt a child.

“We developed two different programs in order to do this in a way that is equitable, and provides benefits for all of our team members,” Stringer said.

Though recruitment and retention are often top priorities for home care providers, it’s rare to find companies that offer 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 the financial ability to provide the benefit.”

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

“You don’t have to provide six to eight weeks, it could be something less,” he said. “I think it’s just maybe a lack of awareness of the opportunity here to do something instead of doing nothing. Every agency could do something, but I think sometimes it feels like if we can’t solve the whole problem, then we solve none of it.”

Home care companies need to start taking into account what will happen if they aren’t investing in the people that work in this industry, Kristen Duell, chief marketing officer at Home Care Pulse, told HHCN.

“[Paid parental leave] is not something that any of us have seen become a trend, but it should be,” she said. “It’s something that we believe will make a difference for recruitment, and retention. Being able to not have a fear around, ‘Can I take time away to take care of my family’ is the kind of thing that makes a difference.”

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

“A few that I thought were really interesting … were things like paid school leave,” Todd Austin, president of Home Care Pulse, previously told HHCN. “With this, you get to attend school programs, for example. I’ve heard of a handful of agencies offering this perk to alleviate the pressure on working [parents], allowing them to attend events and be present for their children.”

Austin noted that home care providers were also offering back-to-school assistance programs for caregivers with children, and some agencies have even been carving ride-share allowances into their benefits packages.

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

“So we have taken a strong look at our benefits,” Amedisys CEO Chris Gerard told HHCN. “And there’s a lot of supplemental things out there that we can do, such as fertility coverage, that the employees want. Longer bereavement opportunities, parental leave, things like that. Those are all things that they’re asking for and that we’re really taking a hard look at.”

As far as Total Care Connections, Stringer believes that this upgrade to the company’s benefits package will yield strong recruitment and retention results.

Stringer hopes that Total Care Connections can lead by example for its industry peers.

“We don’t just want to meet the status quo, or offer just enough to be competitive,” he said. “We want to go the extra mile, and say, ‘How can we lead the way in some of these areas?’”

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