Employer principles for family-supportive Policies & Benefits

The global pandemic revealed more clearly for public, private, and nonprofit employers the importance of policies and services for workers who are parents and caregivers and how essential comprehensive, integrated, and fair policies are for businesses, workers, families, and communities to thrive. Fortunately, a growing number of employers recognize that strong federal and state policies that guarantee adequate pay, leave benefits, and the right to organize are critical for a vibrant workforce. These principles, developed by Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Family Prosperity Innovation Community, provide a roadmap for employers to design their own policies and benefit programs and assess the efficacy of their efforts to support workers.

Ascend at the Aspen Institute invites you to sign on to the Employer Principles for Family-Supportive Policies and Benefits! 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.

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.

Equitable, Inclusive, & Fair

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.

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.

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?
The Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community wants to improve workplaces for parents and caregivers, which support families’ prosperity. At the same time, we recognize that improving the workplace for employers helps businesses, nonprofits, and foundations retain talented staff, attract new employees to fill critical positions, and stand out in their fields. We developed 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 who wish 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?
We believe employers who join us in supporting the principles are deeply motivated 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.

What do you hope will result from a set of employers signing on the principles?
Working parents and caregivers are essential to the operations of employers in every sector and industry; caregivers are essential to our economy. We believe that if a group of committed employers comes together, it will affirm the necessity, feasibility, and effectiveness of implementing family supportive workplace policies for all employees, particularly for those caregiving with low incomes.

How many employers do you need or want to sign on?
We want to make the initial announcement alongside 100 employers, but we won’t stop there. 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.

How are these principles informed by the voices of community-driven organizations and the families they serve?
From 2017 through early 2020, the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community identified opportunities for employers to support principles and innovations that drive the cycle of family prosperity. These principles and innovations were developed and implemented before the COVID-19 global health and economic crisis, which now underscores the increased importance of thinking differently about ways to ensure that more parents and their children benefit from family-supportive policies and practices. Eight months into the pandemic, Ascend revisited the principles with 20 partners in Phase II of Family Prosperity, along with 14 advisors whose expertise is rooted in economic, health, education, and private-sector issues impacting families and workers.

Who are these principles designed to support?
Our goal was to refine and revise the principles to reflect the new realities of work and family life. 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.