15 Apr How Can Employers Support Parents of Children with Special Needs
Parents of Children with Special Needs are rock stars at work. Anyone would be lucky to have them in their company. However, most companies do not provide the environment for these parents to be successful.
We have steadily been pushing for equality for all, but what if that’s not the solution? Parents of children with special needs do not need a one-size-fits-all solution. They want equity, and it’s time we work together to give it to them.
Equity vs. Equality:
First, what is the difference between equity and equality? Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. It is giving everyone the same resources, regardless of an individual’s or group’s needs. The assumption is that everyone benefits from the same support.
Equity is the quality of being fair, adaptive, and impartial. It’s acknowledging that each person has different circumstances and needs, and therefore different groups of people need different resources and opportunities allocated for them to thrive. This is what companies need to start practicing.
We interviewed Becki Irby, product manager for Daxko, who is also a parent of a child with special needs, about her opinions of the workplace. She states “I think it’s okay if not every employee is given the same opportunity because it may not be equitable. I think if more companies could say ‘I’m going to give the same challenge to everyone, and I am not going to dictate how they get there. Not everyone needs to work nights, but it may be that a parent of a child with special needs, needs to be successful. I think what that looks like is me going to my employer and saying, hey, you know what, I think I can still meet that goal. But what if I limit it to these things? And then I take that next day to prove out these things? Here’s how I plan to work based on the constraints that I have, but my teammates do not have.”
You don’t have to change or amend your company’s goals, but maybe consider being okay with it being delivered through a different process. In the workplace, there is not always a one-size-fits-all solution (equality), but there’s a right-size solution for everyone’s needs (equity.) We strongly recommend trying it, because the skills these parents bring to your company are worth it! In case you missed it, check our last week’s blog on all of the great skills that parents of children with special needs have.
Provide a Supportive Workplace:
One of the common things we heard when interviewing working parents of children with special needs is that “support does NOT mean pity.” Becky said, “yes, my life has changed, but my work ethic has not, I am still the same person I was before.” Others have said, yes, we might need help, but never pity. Just because they had to step out for an hour, does not make them less committed to your company. In fact, giving them that flexibility makes them 10x more loyal to you! One mom stated that because her job graciously gives her a flexible schedule and excellent health benefits, this causes her to feel valued, and she states that because of this she does not mind putting in 50-60 hours in her work week when necessary.
If you want to support parents of children with special needs, think about how your PTO is structured. Where other workers use PTO for needed vacation times, a parent of children with special needs may be using these up for hospital visits when their kid suddenly gets sick. Finally, what kind of insurance are you offering your employees? The amount of healthcare needed for a family with a child with special needs is different from that of other families. We understand that most businesses are not able to offer Fortune 500 level insurance, but not all your employees need the same kind of insurance, and this goes back to equity vs equality. What does each of your employees need to be successful?