Working Parents and Employee Assistance Programs Partner for Success
The company I’ve worked for has always had an employee assistance program. For years as a contractor /employee, I was able to use them but only did so for things like finding a financial planner to help me muddle through divorce money woes and getting discounts on cell phones.
Over the years my daughter has suffered terribly at times with life threating food allergies, asthma, reflux and now eosinophilic esophagitis. When we received the last diagnosis, I was simply devastated being a single mom carrying the load alone. Because I’d facilitated support groups over the years I leaned very heavily on my friends in the food allergic community throughout the US and Canada for help. This was all great but it never solved the day to day issues. Before working on this most recent job, I was able to at least temporarily enlist family help so the load was not quite as big as it could be but it certainly hasn’t been easy.
Fast forward to now and being in another city for a job for my company for a while now. Me, two kids a dog and special health concerns. We’ve been pretty lucky up until recently. The school district my daughter is in got hit super hard by the flu. You guessed it, she got it. A kid with a compromised immune system and the flu could be a nightmare. Fortunately, because of her history and monitoring her health daily, I reacted immediately when she showed signs and they were able to start her on Tamiflu. Since it was the weekend, I felt in good shape but then the news came from the doctor. She has to miss school! Ughhhhh! It was the end of the year around holiday time and I just couldn’t afford to stay home without my computer I’d left at the office. I was planning to take an extended vacation for almost two weeks to go home with family for the holidays and didn’t want to use any of those days either.
As I sat in the ER thinking I was between a rock and a hard place, it dawned on me. The company had an employees assistance program with backup childcare for kids. I wondered if she qualified but surely with the Tamiflu in her system, by that Monday she should be right? I didn’t want to do the old send them to school and pray they don’t have symptoms that many of us working parents never admit we do in order to save our jobs. She might get weak or tired or her fever might come back. Ugh, bad mommy idea because my baby needed to be home. I took the plunge and called convincing myself they couldn’t help me.
Well, great news for me! The backup care had a home option that could be used for sick kids as long as they’d been on antibiotics for 24 hours or Tamiflu for 24-48 hours if they could find a caregiver to come out. This seemed too good to be true. At first it was! I waited to call around 5 p.m. that next day and by 10 p.m they had no one for me. I was sad, thinking I’d have to miss deadlines the next day due to my own procrastination, but knowing my child came first. Almost as if there was a miracle, my phone rang at 6 a.m. and they had a caregiver. They all have clean records and have been with the company for some time. This one was familiar with kids with food allergies and the company even asked me what foods the caregiver WAS NOT allowed to bring into my house! Sweet!!! Within an hour she showed up, asked a lot of questions and off I went. Every two hours I got a phone call about my daughter who was really old enough to take care of herself but just couldn’t be alone.
When I got home, the nanny gave me a checklist, informed me about the day and left. The whole thing only cost me $4 per hour because the company picked up the rest! And…best part of all it was billed to my card directly the next day so I didn’t have to give her any cash.
As we continue to work through winter cold and flu season, I encourage all parents who work for corporations with an employee assistance program to check into these types of options. Many of us don’t’ realize they exist and take time off of work when we really don’t have to. In light of the high deductible health plans and all premiums constantly skyrocketing, it’s time to look into what benefits you can use to at least help you out. For small business owners, it would help to find a nanny program to partner with to help our employees and continue to increase productivity while their child is in good hands.
Photo: Matteo Bagnoli/Flickr