Four Employer Principles for Family Prosperity

The global pandemic has exacerbated social and economic hardships for families, and it’s more clearly revealed to employers the long-standing workplace policies and practices that prevent parents and caregivers from fully participating in the workforce. Comprehensive, integrated, and fair policies for workers are critical not only for parents, caregivers, and their children, but they’re essential for businesses and communities to thrive. Fortunately, a growing number of organizations recognize that policies that guarantee adequate pay, leave benefits, and the right to organize are foundational to a vibrant workforce. These principles, which were developed by Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community over the past two years, provide a roadmap for employers to design family-supportive policies and programs that better support their staff and their loved ones.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute invites you to sign on to the Four Employer Principles for Family Prosperity! Employers who sign on to the principles publicly acknowledge a shared goal of achieving the vision of good jobs for all parents and caregivers, especially those with low incomes.

1. Equal Opportunity

Workplace benefits should be universally and equally available to all employees within an organization, regardless of position, status, or tenure. All employees deserve clear and timely information about their workplace benefits.

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Employees receive adequate information to understand and access programs and policies related to worker issues. According to JUST Capital’s research, key issues requiring transparency include whether the company pays men and women equally; prioritizes diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace; offers paid time off and paid parental leave policies; provides supplementary or backup day care services; allows flexible working hours; publishes formal policies for professional development and skills training; and provides tuition reimbursement

Examples At Work

Good News Mountaineer Garage of West Virginia partners with the state’s TANF program to provide donated cars to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients. A survey conducted in 2009 found that 35 percent of car recipients reported increased ability to attend school activities for their children and access to better childcare options. 21 percent of recipients moved into better housing and 31 percent reported that they were able to improve their medical care.

2. Equitable, Inclusive, & Fair Policies

Workplaces are inclusive, equitable, and fair in their policies, practices, benefits, and hiring procedures.

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A fair workplace follows antidiscrimination laws and listens to its employees and their needs. Employees work and fulfill their roles as parents and caregivers because they have sufficient time and resources. In an inclusive and equitable workplace, employers consider gender, racial, and economic equity, paying special attention to populations that are disadvantaged and often excluded from beneficial policies, to make sure that they have access to benefits that level the playing field. Employment is accessible to everyone, including parents who have transportation barriers or children with disabilities

Examples At Work

Cisco Systems constructed the LifeConnections Children’s Learning Center, operated by Bright Horizons on its campus in Milpitas, California. This facility is available to all Cisco employees and contractors for a fee. Scholarships are also available to employees with low incomes. The center provides full and part-time childcare for up to 450 children and functions as a back-up childcare option for unexpected lapses in childcare needs.

3. Health Supports

Integrating and connecting approaches to physical, emotional, and mental health supports into job benefits are critical to thriving employees.

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Comprehensive array of additional programs and supports for employees with low incomes and their families — such as childcare, transportation assistance, mental health counseling, mentoring, and education — recognize that economies, companies, and communities thrive when workers are physically and emotionally well and able to support their families.

Examples At Work

To address the economic security issues faced by their students, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) collaborated with Prosperity Works, Nusenda Credit Union, and other community partners to create a comprehensive parenting student support program that is centered around a financial literacy course. Students enrolled in the course, and their children, are provided a free dinner prior to the start of class. Additionally, CNM leverages cross campus services to connect students who are parenting with childcare, emergency food, dental care, behavioral health, and other community services.

4. Employee Partnerships

Employees are invaluable partners in designing effective, sustainable policies that enable employees to thrive in their work and family life.

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Employers will collaborate with staff and other community stakeholders across sectors to create a constellation of programs and choices. The efficacy of information that employers provide to employees is assessed and measured. Feedback loops exist and work effectively to share information bidirectionally between employers and employees. Workers need interaction with trusted organizations as well as employer support.

Both employers and employees must be supported to ensure effective, sustainable implementation. Government agencies and business associations can provide technical assistance to help employers enact work/family-supportive policies and benefits consistently and fairly and allocate sufficient resources to support these policies and benefits. Implementation is monitored, assessed, and refined by both employers and employees. As a step further, contractor, vendor, certification, and partnership guidelines evaluate work and family support policies. In addition to benefits for individual employees, private sector employers incentivize and fund workplace benefits, such as leave banking and lactation supports, and ensure that there are feedback loops.

Examples At Work

The Family Partnership of Minnesota implemented a Work-Family Supports Parent Leadership Project with the objective of increasing support for working families. Participants come together every four to six weeks for a duration of nine months to engage in community forums, coalitions, and hearings relevant to work-family supports.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why has Family Prosperity developed these principles?
We cannot have a thriving and inclusive economy without valuing and supporting the parents and caregivers who are vital to our workforce. The Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community wants to improve workplaces for parents and caregivers, which support families’ prosperity. We know from speaking with parents and caregivers that improving workplace policies and programs for families helps businesses, nonprofits, and foundations retain talented staff, attract new employees to fill critical positions, and stand out in their fields. We developed these four principles as a roadmap for employers to achieve the vision of good jobs for all parents, especially those with low incomes. These principles will support employers in adapting to and implementing lessons surfaced from the pandemic, from calls for racial justice and from a climate that is changing rapidly due to environmental and economic forces.

What does it mean for an employer to sign on to these principles (e.g., how are you defining “sign on”)?
Employers and individuals who sign on to the principles publicly commit to achieving the vision of good jobs for all parents and caregivers, especially those with low incomes. The principles highlight four of the most crucial elements necessary in achieving said vision, and in this way, act as a roadmap for employers to embrace innovative family supportive workplace practices and policies. We hope that your leadership will inspire employers to do the same.

Will employers be held accountable to the principles, and if so, how?
Employers who join us in supporting these principles demonstrate their motivation to enhance the lives of parents and caregivers who work, their families, and their communities. Employers will not be held to any form of quantitative or punitive metric of accountability.

If a group of committed employers comes together to support the caregivers who uplift our economy, it will affirm the necessity, feasibility, and effectiveness of implementing family supportive workplace policies for all employees, particularly for those with low incomes.

How are these principles informed by the voices of community-driven organizations and the families they serve?
From 2017 through 2020, the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community identified opportunities for employers to support principles and innovations that drive the cycle of family prosperity. In 2020, eight months into the pandemic, Ascend and its partners recognized the demand to shift how we support working parents and revisited the principles to ensure that more parents and their children could benefit from family-supportive polices and practices. These principles reflect the input and guidance of the 20 partners of Family Prosperity partner organizations, the 14 advisors whose expertise is rooted in economic, health, education, and private-sector issues, as well as families and workers themselves.

Who are these principles designed to support?
These principles reflect the realities of work and family life for parents and caregivers with low incomes. Family health and well-being are drivers of economic growth, not only for individual children and families but for our communities, cities, and country. The resulting refined set of principles are a roadmap for employers to achieve the vision of good jobs for all caregivers and parents, especially those with low incomes. Our hope is that small-, medium-, and large-sized employers in private, public, and nonprofit sectors across the nation embrace a transformational path forward for parenting and caregiving workers. Throughout our engagement, we will pursue diversity across sector, geography, and years of business.

Strengthening Families’ access to employment opportunities, economic security, and health & well-being.