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Smith College A Culture of Care

Supporting Employees With Child Care Needs, September 21, 2020

Supporting Employees With Child Care Needs, September 21, 2020

Dear Smith staff and faculty:

Throughout this pandemic, one of the most pressing concerns we’ve heard from employees is the difficulty of finding—and affording—child care. As President McCartney wrote in her op-ed in Newsweek today, “we could see the country finally come to grips with what we have been writing about for years: The U.S. has a child care crisis.”

We are pleased to share three new initiatives that will help address these needs, thanks to a partnership between the Office of the Provost and Human Resources.

First, President McCartney has established an employee assistance grant program, which will be funded by her discretionary funds, to support child care costs for actively employed staff and faculty who are parents and guardians. The grant provides $750 for parents and guardians with one child or $1,500 for parents and guardians with two or more children, as described in more detail below. This is a one-time, opt-in grant program. Staff and faculty may apply at this link if their household includes both parents or guardians currently working or a single parent or guardian currently working and any of the following:

  • A dependent 12 years of age or younger as of October 1, 2020, who is not in full-time, fully in-person child care or school during fall 2020
  • A dependent 19 years of age or younger as of October 1, 2020, who is incapable of self-care and who is not in full-time, fully in-person child care or school during fall 2020

Second, we recognize how difficult it is for parents to find supervision outside of their homes for students engaged in remote learning programs. We are actively working with a local partner to explore opportunities to meet this need, and we hope to have news to share soon.

Third, we know from experience that every parent and guardian thrives best when they are surrounded by a community of support. We are in the process of creating a parent and guardian online network that connects Smith employees who have child care responsibilities. This network will enable employees to share resources and find support for such initiatives as family pods, tutoring and baby-sitting services. This network will be developed and supported by a newly formed Parent and Guardian Connect Working Group, which will reach out shortly with next steps.

Let us also remind you of support resources already in place for employees; some or all of these may be especially welcomed by those with dependent-care obligations.

  • We have greatly expanded access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a confidential and voluntary counseling referral service. Every employee—and every member of their family— is now eligible for 12 sessions per topic at no cost; note that there are no limits on topics. The EAP also offers counseling, legal and financial consultation and referrals. To use the benefit, call 800-828-6025 and identify yourself as a Smith employee or household/family member of a Smith employee.
  • If an employee is unable to return to work for reasons that are not covered under the college’s other leave of absence designations, they can apply for a pandemic leave with the Office of Human Resources. Employees approved for pandemic leave can use personal, vacation, recess or annual leave time to be paid during this leave.
  • Adjusting FSA Accounts. Employees may now make a change on a prospective basis to a medical or dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) without a qualifying event for 2020 due to a temporary change in IRS regulations. Employees can increase, reduce or stop current FSA elections in Workday. The new annual election cannot fall below the amount of any claims already reimbursed or the amount already deducted from payroll. Instructions for completing the task in Workday can be found on the Workday help site. Employees have until February 28, 2021, to incur expenses toward the 2020 FSA election and until March 31, 2021, to submit claims for reimbursement from 2020 FSA elections.
  • Employees may submit proposals to the Office of Human Resources to reduce their work hours and pay by 10 to 50 percent, for a minimum of two months.
  • The college has purchased a license that allows every student, staff and faculty member to enjoy a free subscription to Calm, a widely lauded relaxation and meditation app.
  • The college encourages employees to talk about work-life balance challenges with their managers. Human Resources is available to work with our community to offer as much flexibility to employees as possible.

We hope these resources—both new and ongoing—help support you as you navigate supporting your responsibilities of family and personal well-being during these uncertain times.

Sincerely,

Anne-Marie Szmyt
Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Hélène Visentin
Associate Dean of the Faculty and Dean for Faculty Development