The best back-to-school benefits companies are offering their employees
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, companies quickly realized the old workplace benefits—on-site meals and dry-cleaning, anyone?—wouldn’t translate to remote work. Businesses raced to introduce benefits that their employees could take advantage of—and that would be most helpful— during the global crisis.
Now that the pandemic has reached the fall, companies are aiming to meet the changing needs of employees whose children are attending virtual school from home. These are some of the most innovative benefits tailored to the back-to-school season that businesses are now offering their employees.
In August, consulting and tech firm Accenture introduced new school-day supervision for children ages 6 through 12 through a partnership with Bright Horizons. Accenture employees can pay $5 an hour—the company covers 75% of the cost—for their children to follow remote learning curriculums in a small group supervised by a proctor. The makeshift school day takes place at Mathnasium, Sylvan Learning, or Code Ninja locations, with supplemental activities available between classes.
Bank of America
Bank of America’s back-up childcare program for employees ended in mid-August; the bank followed up by introducing a daily childcare reimbursement of $75 or $100, depending on the employee’s salary, for children up to 12 years old and children with special needs through 21 years old through Dec. 31.
Through a partnership with Bright Horizons, similar to Accenture’s, Bank of America will provide workers with access to learning hubs and childcare. The company will also offer educational resources through Khan Academy, virtual field trips, and virtual after-school programs. Information on these resources will be available via a centralized hub for parents.
Fintech startup Carta this month announced a $10,000 annual stipend per employee to help with childcare for kids under 13 years old in both 2020 and 2021.
To its childcare offerings, which include back-up care and enrollment through Bright Horizons, Citi in August added nanny placement services for employees.
For the start of the school year, Citi introduced a service helping employees find caregivers trained in education who can supervise online learning and assistance finding tutors and other families to join small group learning outside the school setting. Citi offers a 10% discount on these services.
Dell expanded its longstanding “Connected Workplace” program offering flexibility for remote work to its full workforce in July.
For back-to-school, Dell is offering employees access to virtual learning pods, tutoring services, and help finding childcare providers also trained in education; the company provides some discounts and credits to employees. The company has also expanded its network of childcare centers from 1,000 to 2,400 locations to meet demand as parents search for in-person options with schools closed.
Over the summer, the financial services company ran Fidelity Kids Camp, five weeks of virtual full-day summer activities for employees’ kids.
The company has since pivoted its online concierge service, which has long provided assistance with tasks like planning vacations or finding contractors, to more specifically address the needs of working parents. The service now finds information like where to buy face masks for children, what to make for lunch during the school day, and what availability is like at local daycares.
This month, Fidelity introduced a reimbursement of up to $100 per dependent per month for child, with a $300 household maximum, for childcare expenses through the end of the year. The company is also working on a program to provide flexibility in hours to employees who usually a fixed shift schedule.
Technology company Intel in September switched its backup childcare offering to a monthly reimbursement program, offering employees between $75 and $300 a month to help with caregiving costs.
Earlier this year, the company added 80 hours of supplemental paid time off. The company also changed how its longstanding four- and eight-week sabbatical program for long-term employees can be used to allow for more time off during the pandemic.
During the 2020 year, consulting firm KPMG has expanded a number of its existing benefits. The company quadrupled the number of days employees can use the firm’s backup care program; expanded its network of discounted one-on-one or small group tutoring, academic support, test prep, and homework assistance (discounts range from 10% to 30%); and expanded its network of childcare centers with discounted care available from 1,000 to 2,500 locations.
KPMG also created “learning pods” for employees, where parents throughout the organization can team up for virtual or in-person learning for small groups of school-age children.
The firm also has a few benefits it is set to introduce in the coming weeks, including a college coaching program and specialized coaching for employees with teenage children.
Microsoft is participating in a Bright Horizons arrangement similar to Accenture’s, offering “school-day supervision” to children of employees who are learning remotely.
Palo Alto Networks
Cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks will provide $1,000 per year per employee that can be put toward benefits including health—like a gym membership—and education; those education benefits include tutoring assistance. The company has also introduced on-demand learning for employees.
Software company Progress has begun offering virtual events for families including a summer baking challenge inspired by the Netflix series Nailed It, art classes, virtual paint night, a “bring your kids to work” events.
Tech giant Salesforce has added six additional weeks of available time off for employees who are parents. The company has also clarified that parents will be able to work remotely past the August 2021 date currently pegged for the workforce’s return to the office is children’s schools remain closed.
Shipping software startup ShipStation specialized its virtual wellness series to focus on back to school, bringing in nutritionists to provide tips on healthy lunches and snacks alongside wellness experts leading webinars for parents about stress management.
SitterStream is a new startup providing 30- to 90-minute virtual babysitting and tutoring sessions. The companies Amazon, Alnylam, Sarepta, and Unum have signed on to offer SitterStream services to their employees, the startup says.
This summer, consumer financial services company Synchrony introduced Synchrony summer camps, virtual summer camp experiences for 3,700 children of employees.
This fall, the company is expanding that concept to “Synchrony after school,” similar virtual after-school programs for children, including homework help and extracurricular activities.
The tutoring marketplace Wyzant launched Wyzant for Business, an corporate benefit package allowing companies to subsidize at-home learning—for children or adults—for their employees.