The Best Com­pa­nies know that help­ing par­ent em­ploy­ees with their chil­dren’s prob­lems—from man­ag­ing teens’ emo­tional is­sues to find­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vices for kids with spe­cial needs—is the best way to keep them loyal, en­gaged and pro­duc­tive.

Working Mother - - 100 Best Companies - by kather­ine reynolds lewis

The Best Com­pa­nies help par­ent em­ploy­ees cope with fam­ily is­sues to keep them loyal and pro­duc­tive.

When Dav­ila Niesen’s youngest son, Ri­ley, was 3, his beloved faith-based day­care in Plano, TX, broke the news to the fam­ily that they sim­ply couldn’t meet his needs be­cause of his com­bi­na­tion of autism, an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity and other neu­ro­log­i­cal mat­ters that re­quired ex­ten­sive test­ing. The teach­ers said they spent as much time man­ag­ing his be­hav­ior as the other 11 kids in his class com­bined. For Dav­ila, a busy pub­lic ac­coun­tant at Ernst & Young LLP, the chal­lenge of im­me­di­ately find­ing re­place­ment child­care for Ri­ley and after-school care for his older brother, Brady, then 7, could’ve been dis­as­trous (all the re­search, screen­ing and in­ter­views). In­stead, she placed one call to EY As­sist, the firm’s free, un­lim­ited em­ployee-as­sis­tance program, which con­tacted nanny agen­cies and nar­rowed down the list of pos­si­bil­i­ties. In ad­di­tion to child­care re­fer­rals, EY As­sist serves as the clear­ing­house for autism-treat­ment support, home­work help, tu­tor­ing ser­vices, col­lege coach­ing, emo­tional support and sub­stance­abuse coun­sel­ing, re­fer­ral ser­vices for teens, re­sources for chil­dren with spe­cial needs, and ac­cess to in­di­vid­ual con­sul­tants to as­sist with iden­ti­fy­ing and us­ing ap­pro­pri­ate school ser­vices.

“They were able to find an agency with a lady look­ing for em­ploy­ment who had 13 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a spe­ciale­d­u­ca­tion aide in the pub­lic-school sys­tem,” re­calls Dav­ila, now an ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor in EY’s in­di­rect-tax prac­tice based in Dal­las. “She wound up work­ing for us for four years un­til my youngest was in a more tra­di­tional full-day school.”

With paid parental leave and backup child­care in­creas­ingly standard at the Work­ing Mother 100 Best Com­pa­nies, em­ploy­ers are look­ing for other ways to support their work­force’s care­giv­ing needs—and dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves in the war for ta­lent. More and more, this means ben­e­fits for chil­dren with autism and other spe­cial needs, as well as pro­grams for older school-age chil­dren. Of this year’s 100 Best Com­pa­nies, 94 per­cent pro­vide emo­tional-support coun­sel­ing for teens and tweens, 88 per­cent of­fer support for treat­ing em­ploy­ees’ chil­dren with autism, 63 per­cent fa­cil­i­tate col­lege coach­ing, 41 per­cent have tu­tor­ing ser­vices and 25 per­cent give em­ploy­ees a home­work hot­line. While there’s a fee for some of these, oth­ers are free.

Take Adobe Sys­tems: It en­hanced its paid time off in 2015 for fam­ily care, and med­i­cal, parental and ma­ter­nity leave, but it also of­fers net­works and support for em­ploy­ees whose chil­dren have spe­cial needs, and both coun­sel­ing and lifestage “care kits” for preg­nancy, in­fants, tod­dlers, ac­tive adults and el­ders. They con­tain ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als and fact

sheets as well as handy items like a bib for ba­bies and a pill­box for elder­care.

“It’s the coolest thing for in­di­vid­u­als like my­self who have older kids to see their em­ploy­ers not just work on ma­ter­nity, pa­ter­nity and adop­tion ben­e­fits,” says Bar­bara Dieker, mom of Re­becca, 17, and Alex, 13, and se­nior direc­tor of cus­tomer re­search and in­sights in Adobe’s San Jose, CA, head­quar­ters. “When I see my em­ployer com­mit­ted to fol­low­ing you as you age, it makes me feel more com­mit­ted to the com­pany.”

Bar­bara spoke four times with col­lege coaches who helped Re­becca choose classes for her ju­nior and se­nior years of high school. The coaches de­vel­oped a list of col­leges that would likely be a good fit for her in­ter­ests, at all lev­els of se­lec­tive­ness.

“It saves me thou­sands of dol­lars,” says Bar­bara, a sin­gle mom. “I make a great liv­ing at Adobe, but this is money that I don’t have to ap­ply to mak­ing col­lege trips. I can use it else­where.”

For Dis­cov­ery Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­no­va­tions in­clude on-site well­ness cen­ters and pri­vate rooms that are avail­able for ther­a­pists to treat em­ploy­ees’ kids with spe­cial needs who at­tend the on-site day­care. “Dis­cov­ery rec­og­nizes that em­ploy­ees go through a va­ri­ety of life tran­si­tions. Some­times they’re wel­comed, some­times not,” says Jessica Lee, direc­tor of global lifeworks and in­clu­sion and hu­man re­sources busi­ness part­ner. “If we can pro­vide pro­grams that help our peo­ple nav­i­gate life’s mo­ments, we’ll do it.”

When Kim Skinner, bulk op­er­a­tions man­ager at Mon­santo’s St. Louis, MO, head­quar­ters, needed help nav­i­gat­ing care op­tions for her youngest son Gavin’s con­gen­i­tal heart de­fect, the com­pany’s ben­e­fits ad­vo­cate walked her through the med­i­cal bills, in­sur­ance pay­ments and moun­tain of pa­per­work. “It def­i­nitely saved a lot of time and prob­a­bly money,” says Kim, also mom to Colin, 21, and Dun­can, 16.

Now that Gavin is 13 and has been di­ag­nosed with Asperger’s, Kim re­lies on Mon­santo’s re­sources from the Re­think autism-support web­site to set goals and track progress. She had a phone con­sul­ta­tion with a be­hav­ior ther­a­pist whose sug­ges­tions helped her son with so­cial skills. “He’s def­i­nitely made some strides this year, start­ing con­ver­sa­tions that he oth­er­wise would not have,” she says.

EY has taken its com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing kids with autism a step fur­ther with a new program to hire adults with autism to work in ar­eas where their unique skills are as­sets. “At EY, we value peo­ple with all abil­i­ties, and em­brace vari­a­tion in phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive and so­cio-emo­tional abil­i­ties as just an­other form of diver­sity,” says Stephen R. Howe, EY U.S. chair­man and man­ag­ing part­ner and EY Amer­i­cas man­ag­ing part­ner. “Our neu­ro­di­ver­sity program lever­ages the spe­cial skillsets of­ten found in in­di­vid­u­als on the autism spec­trum and en­able client-serv­ing pro­fes­sion­als to be more pro­duc­tive and ef­fi­cient.”

Morgan Stan­ley starts sup­port­ing par­ent em­ploy­ees right at the be­gin­ning of their jour­ney with in­fant tran­si­tion coun­sel­ing, which helps ex­pec­tant par­ents pre­pare for and wel­come a new baby. The financial-ser­vices firm also of­fers par­ents a ser­vice that con­nects them to a sec­ond med­i­cal opin­ion in the case of a fam­ily mem­ber’s ill­ness. But ul­ti­mately, the sig­nals from the top mat­ter most, says Su­san Reid, global head of diver­sity and in­clu­sion. “It’s clear that if you don’t cre­ate a work­place and cul­ture that al­lows fam­i­lies to thrive first, you just can’t have a pro­duc­tive work­force,” Reid says.

Dav­ila agrees. “The one thing I can ab­so­lutely say is that I would not have had a suc­cess­ful 30-year ca­reer in pub­lic ac­count­ing with­out EY.”

Of this year’s 100 Best Com­pa­nies, 88% of­fer support for treat­ing em­ploy­ees’ chil­dren with autism.

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