playing “never have I ever” at work, child care stipends for employees, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Playing “never have I ever” at work

Like many offices, my team has been hosting regular happy hours and social events in the afternoon on Zoom. Our boss supports this and usually we have a great time! Normally I’m not one to object to having a cocktail or two with my coworkers, but this week my colleague has decided to host this happy hour as a game of “never have I ever.”

I look forward to these opportunities to connect with my coworkers, and I want to support the colleague organizing this event. Since the two hallmarks of this game are excessive drinking and absurd questions, I can’t help but feel “never have I ever” is an inappropriate game for a Zoom call.

Since it’s happening during working hours and our boss is always on these calls, I don’t want to simply skip it. Is there a more graceful way to bow out of something like this?

Any chance your coworker is planning a more work-appropriate version of the game? Some people play the game with points rather than drinks, and with questions that wouldn’t be unsafe for work. On the other hand, some coworkers have really weird ideas of what’s appropriate for work so it’s understandable that you’d want to be sure, especially if you’ve only participated in the rowdier, racier version of the game in the past.

You could ask your coworker something like, “My experience with this game has only been the drinking version, and the topics can be pretty intimate ones! So I wondered if there’s a more PG one I should be picturing?” If her answer doesn’t set you at ease, you can always pull the “I can’t stay long but I wanted to pop in for five minutes to say hi to everyone” move and then drop off after that.

2. Can we offer child care stipends to employees whose kids’ schools aren’t reopening?

I work in an essential business and the majority of our positions require working on location. Some of our sites have been hit really hard financially due to COVID-19, but we’ve been able to keep everyone employed, provide a safe work environment, and allow people to work from home when possible. We just learned that schools in our area won’t reopen in-person in the fall. There are essential worker childcare options open that help with e-learning, but the added expense must be breaking some people’s budgets! This is not a high-paying industry to begin with and I can’t imagine adding a $500 monthly expense right now and that’s if you only have one child!

This doesn’t affect me personally, but I thought how helpful it would be if we could offer childcare stipends through this time. Is this legal? Do they also have to offer a stipend to employees without childcare needs? We have hundreds of employees, so there’s no way to offer this to anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it without a serious financial burden.

If you’re able to do it, your employees with kids would undoubtedly be hugely appreciative — and what a way to build loyalty right now. As for the legality, there’s no federal law that prohibits you from treating people differently based on parental status. Some state or local jurisdictions do have such laws, but they’re generally written to prevent discrimination against parents specifically. Check with a local lawyer to be sure, but I suspect you’d be in the clear legally.

That said, would you consider broadening it from just child care to any kind of dependent care that’s being impacted by closed facilities? That way if you have an employee with an adult family member who’s dependent on them for care and whose normal daytime facility is closed, you’ll be supporting them as well. That’s unlikely to add to your numbers considerably, but broadening your language could help ward off potential resentment about parents getting special help others aren’t eligible for.

3. How to ask about a vacation when I’m close to burn-out

I love my job, my department, and my company, and our leadership has been taking COVID very seriously. Everyone has been working remotely since March, and we expect we won’t be back in the office before the end of the year. I have a senior role on a small team, and our workload has really increased since spring. Our team has been a person short for almost a year, and hiring has been difficult, so we’re all spread thin.

I also have a chronic illness which has been flaring badly for months due to stress from the pandemic. I’ve struggled with worsening brain fog, pain, and fatigue, and it’s exhausting. I’m trying to find a better care routine, but in the meantime I’m starting to notice mistakes I’m making. It hasn’t been anything serious, but our tasks are very detail-reliant and I create more work for other teams when I miss something. I’ve struggled at work due to a flare once before, and I don’t want it to happen again. I think I’m just starting to get burned out. I’d had a vacation planned in the spring to visit my folks out-of-state that obviously got canceled. I’d been saving vacation time in hopes I could reschedule it soon, but their state’s COVID situation has gotten worse, so I might as well take a stay-cation.

Our leadership has been regularly telling staff to take care of ourselves and please use our vacation time, and I know it’s genuine. I just don’t know how to start this conversation with my boss. I do a lot of specialized tasks, and while we have coverage documentation, some of it’s outdated and needs updating. Since I’m barely keeping up with my daily work, trying to get things in shape to take a vacation seems almost impossible.

I don’t have a specific plan in mind for time to take off (beyond “a few days soon, please”) and would want to do what’s best for the team, but I worry it’d be less than helpful to bring it up without dates in mind. My position was created — and I was promoted into it — because I’d been good at making sure things didn’t get dropped. I’m struggling with admitting that I’m starting to drop things and need to take a break, essentially dropping everything, because I’m just so worn out from being in my body in a pandemic. I know everybody needs vacations! I just don’t know how to ask for myself.

It’s so, so common to need a vacation but feel like you can’t take one because you’re so busy and because of worries about how your work will be covered while you’re away. None of that is reason not to do it — and you’re in an excellent position because your management seems to know that.

The fact that you’re flexible on dates makes this even easier. You can say to your boss, “I need to take a few days off but I’m flexible on the dates. Is there any time in August that would be especially good or especially bad for me to take X days off?” Or if your boss isn’t likely to know the answer to that better than you are, you can just say, “I’m thinking about (dates) — does that sound all right to you?”

Once your dates are settled, you can also say, “Normally I’d want to have X and Y in good shape before leaving. Can we talk about how to carve out time for that before I go, so that the team has what they’ll need while I’m gone? My thought is to push back Z to make room for it.” If your manager suggests that perhaps now isn’t the ideal time to go if that’s the situation, feel free to be more explicit that your whole goal in taking the time off is because you’ve been stretched thin and need to ward off burn-out.

4. My boss told people about my pregnancy

I work at a private school which is going to open in person in the fall after being remote since March due to Covid. In a recent meeting with my boss, we began planning for the upcoming school year, and he asked if I would need accommodations due to Covid-19. I shared with him that I was 15 weeks pregnant and would need to quarantine (work from home or take a leave if that wasn’t possible) two weeks before my due date per my doctor’s instructions. The conversation was great, and he shared a lot of excitement and happiness for me. The next day he sent me an email to let me know that he shared my news with some of my colleagues and they were also very happy for me.

I realize that his actions aren’t great from a privacy standpoint, but I’m actually more disappointed from a relational standpoint. I haven’t seen my colleagues in months, and I was excited to share my news when I saw them in September. On the other hand, I never specifically asked for the information not to be shared, and I think he shared the news out of genuine happiness for me. Am I right to be a little annoyed? Would you recommend bringing this up with him? My thoughts are to just let it be, as I truly don’t believe he meant to do something wrong. Finally, reflecting on the situation, I can’t help but to wonder if I should have been clearer about my expectations with sharing the information. Was my boss off on this one, or would most people need to be explicitly told not to share?

He shouldn’t have shared your news without checking with you first. Pregnancy is generally understood to be something you might share with your boss (because you need to discuss logistics) before you’re ready to share it with the rest of your team … so the fact that you were sharing it with him wasn’t itself an indication that he could spread the news.

That said, ideally you also would have told him that you hadn’t told others yet and asked him to let you do that yourself in September — not because you should need to, but because people can be careless with info and so it’s useful to be explicit when you don’t want something repeated. That can be especially true when something is good news, since people get excited for you and share it without thinking.

I think you can bring it up with him if you want to (“I should have been clearer that I wasn’t planning to share it until we’re back in September” is a fairly non-adversarial way to do it, although you can also be more direct if you want to), but I don’t think your instinct to let it go is a bad one, especially if you’re confident it was a miscommunication, he didn’t mean harm, and it’s not a pattern. Either way, file away that you apparently need to be clearer with him when you want something kept in confidence in the future.

5. Turning down an interview without burning bridges

Over a month ago, I applied for a job at Organization A. I really like Organization A and would love to work there one day! However, I have have since been offered a job at Organization B and have accepted. (My new position is pretty great — something I’m interested in, have experience in, and is relevant to my grad school plans). Well, today I got an email from Organization A saying they want to interview me. Like I said, I would love to work there one day, but I’m not going to go back on my word to Organization B and so it feels like a waste of everyone’s time to interview with them right now. Can I turn down this interview without burning a bridge?

People turn down interviews all the time! As long as you’re polite about it, it’s not something that burns bridges; employers understand people’s circumstances change. You’ve accepted another job! That’s not a slight against them.

If on some level you’re thinking they’ll be irked that you applied and then accepted something else — that’s just how this works! Most people continue applying for jobs up until the moment they accept one, and employers don’t expect anything different. If you’d been in the final stages of interviewing with Organization A, they probably would have appreciated a heads-up that you were considering another offer, but they hadn’t even responded to your initial application! There are no issues here.

All you need to do is reply with something like, “I’ve actually just accepted a new position so I need to withdraw from consideration, but I wish you all the best in filling the role.”

{ 573 comments… read them below }

  1. Long Time Lurker*

    For question # 5, I can assure you it doesn’t burn a bridge! I turned down an interview with my current employer in October 2012 as I ended up getting an offer. In February 2014, that job turned out not be the right fit and I re-applied. Have now been there almost 6 years and counting!

    1. Esme*

      It only burns a bridge if you take the interview then no-show as you got another job… Recruiter friend tells me this happens more than you’d imagine.

      1. Anononon*

        When I was in law school, in the early spring, I literally sent letters with my resume to every local judge (and I lived in a large city with a large court system) asking for a summer internship. I got about a half-dozen responses, including scheduling an interview with one judge about two months in the future. During that time, I had another interview with a different judge and accepted an offer for an internship.

        I still remember being in the cafeteria months later and getting a phone call from a law clerk asking where I was for my scheduled interview. It was absolutely the worst, and I was so mortified.

    2. Bird Law*

      Jumping in today that this happened to me in 2014 – I had literally just accepted an offer in private practice after over a year trying to find a government/public interest role when I got an email asking me to interview for a position I would have loved. I politely declined, explaining that I had just accepted an offer, but reiterated that my ultimate goal was to return to public service. Another position opened up in 2018, I was hired, and I’ve been there ever since!

    3. Quinalla*

      Yes this is very common and no one (except someone you’d never want to work for) will be slighted by you turning down the interview siting that you already accepted an offer. Congratulations on your new job!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This, exactly. This happens all the time, and no one ever thinks twice (other than, “oh, that’s a bummer!”) when a candidate drops out because they took another position. If they’re applying with us, they’re probably applying other places, too. I’d be wary of any employer who held it against a candidate.

    4. Jennifer*

      I’ve had a company get an attitude with me about this, but that just made me realize I’d dodged a bullet.

    5. SongbirdT*

      I had a very similar thing happen to me with my current employer. It was my dream company, I applied there and at many other places, and got a call from them asking for an interview on the day I accepted another offer. About 9mos later they called me and asked if I’d be willing to interview for a different position. Honestly, I was happy at the job I accepted, and I thought the position they asked me to interview was probably out of my reach. I decided to go ahead and interview anyway to get experience for next time and lo and behold! I got an offer! It was the toughest resignation I ever turned in, but I’m so glad I did! (Side note, my old boss AND grandboss and several former co-workers also work at DreamCo now. )

  2. Atlantis*

    OP #5, you’re definitely not burning a bridge by declining an interview, especially if you do it in the manner Alison suggested. I had a similar thing happen when I was accepted into a PhD program after I had applied for a few jobs. The ones that reached out for an interview I just responded that I had been accepted into a PhD program and would therefore have to withdraw from consideration, but I wished them well in their hiring process and hopefully I would be able to apply again in the future. I actually got 2-3 nice notes back from those wishing me well in my program and encouraging me to apply again in the future.

    If you did somehow manage to burn a bridge with them just for turning down an interview in a professional way, chances are you really wouldn’t have wanted to work for them at all.

    1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      Exactly! Turning down an interview isn’t what burns a bridge as everyone knows many things can happen between applying and when interviews actually begin. It’s ghosting during any part of the process after you’ve established firm contact that will burn a bridge. Everyone knows things happen—it’s when you leave a company in the lurch after establishing rapport that’s the issue.

  3. Beth*

    #2: I agree with Alison’s suggestion to make it a general caregiving stipend rather than specifically childcare. Probably it will be mostly parents using it, but being broader will let you cover other cases that need similar support–elderly parents, an unwell sibling that your employee is a primary caregiver for, a disabled spouse, whatever. You sound like you’re genuinely trying to look out for people, so these are cases I’m betting you want to cover anyways! And framing it as help for people facing a large extra pandemic-related cost (hiring private caregiving services) rather than a parent-specific benefit will defuse a lot of potential tension.

    1. Sue*

      I’m curious why the concern about legality? Serious question, I just don’t know if I’m missing something. Is it a concern about favoring parents over the childless as discriminatory in some way?

      OP is concerned about limiting this only to those who legitimately need. I think that’s fair. If you only have X, and you are worried about limiting to X dollars bc you cannot afford twice that, then I don’t think you should let limited budget hold you back. Find a way to get X dollars to the neediest.

      Perhaps look to tax code for ways to craft language. There are provisions about who qualifies as dependent, what qualifies as childcare/dependent care expense, etc., that you may be able to use to make sure your definitions are not so broad as to bankrupt your budget.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        I live in a state that prohibits discrimination on the basis of family status. I know it’s tricky when it’s a benefit an employer wants to give, rather than, say, refusing to hire single mothers because of worries about absenteeism. But, this involves a benefit based on family status, so it makes sense to check with a lawyer.

        1. JSPA*

          That generally means quite strictly that you can’t restrict the offer based on family status. Not that you can’t make an offer that people with one sort of family structure are more likely to use.

          If the company plans to offer childcare (or, dependent care) stipends to everyone who develops those costs and responsibilities, then that offer is not actually linked to family status.

          If you’re facing those costs as a married person, as a single parent, or as the sister of a single parent who’s hospitalized and you’re the backup plan…the stipend applies. It’s a cost anyone could in theory face, and it will be covered for anyone, regardless of family status, if they face it.

          And that’s the essential difference, vs “we pay married couples 20% extra because we expect they will have a family to support” or “we don’t hire people with children for this job, because it requires odd hours, and we’re deciding for you that the job is therefore inappropriate for you and that you’re unlikely to be able to make it work.”

          TBH, pet care is also more fraught. I can imagine several ways to deal with that, though which ones are reasonable, and which ones actually increase risk, will depend on the individual workplace.

          In some situations, allowing people to do shortened days (with a couple of hours of WFH at the end of the day) or (if most of the workforce is very local) allowing people to take an extended lunch so they can pop home and walk their dog would go a long way towards saving them both the cost and the potential extra exposure of a dog walker. (I don’t even have a dog, and I’d want this to be a thing.) If other pet owners also want to use the benefit to take a walk and a cat petting break, that’s also worth a lot, as far as mental health.

        2. Overeducated*

          Dependent care FSAs are a legal workplace benefit though. So is paid parental leave. I’m not against checking with a lawyer, just saying there are some benefits not available to everyone based on family status.

          1. kt*

            I think the pedantic lawyerly thing though is that dependent care FSA is available to everyone, it’s just that not everyone uses it. I know that is truly nit-picky, but I do think that’s the important issue. It’s like bike commuting benefits being available everyone, you just have to bike to use them, or parking spaces being available to all employees, you just must use a car to get to work to take advantage of that perk.

            1. Anononon*

              But what about the OP’s proposal isn’t available to everyone? You just need a child and/or dependent to us it.

      2. TechWorker*

        I totally agree that it would be great for OP to do this but if you think of other situations where employers pay people based on need you can see why there could be legal concerns, eg paying single people more because they only have one household income (not too far from ‘paying married women less because their husband should be supporting them’ which you know happened for years)

      3. Captain Raymond Holt*

        My (US) company decided to pay 100% of all individual health insurance premiums starting with 2020. Let’s say the individual premium was $400 a month – essentially they paid that $400 towards your premium. Great for me; I’m single and childfree. I paid $0. A coworker had herself and three kids. Let’s say the full premium was $800 for all of them. She would now pay $400 instead of $800. We both saved $400, but she had to pay because she was covering more people.

        The employer arranged it this way so that everyone was getting a benefit of the same value independent of family status. If they had paid the coworkers full premium and my full premium she would have gotten compensated $400/month more than I did for having children.

        That’s why it may be a legal issue, and they should certainly consult legal counsel before doing this.

        1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          “If they had paid the coworkers full premium and my full premium she would have gotten compensated $400/month more than I did for having children.”

          Not really. They are not getting compensated for having children. They are getting their full premium paid because the premiums are higher for that class of employee and the employer has committed to paying 100% of premiums for everyone. Even if this coworker got the full $800, they would be no better off than you. The $400 additional premium is fully paid to the insurance company.

          The flip side of your position is that the worker with children could say they were being discriminated against because those needing single coverage were premium-free and effectively took home more money because of it. As you say, “great for you”, but not so much for them.

          It’s generally fairer to pay the same percentage of premium for all employees. I don’t like how your employer does this, although it may work out to the same cost for the company to discriminate like this. Optics are bad though.

          1. KaciHall*

            Almost every company I’ve worked for pays a larger percentage of the employees premium than any dependents. The place I work for more pays a flat dollar amount towards premium – since premiums are tiered based on age and sex, younger guys pay nothing towards health insurance, those of us with families pay significantly more.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I don’t understand your thoughts here.

            If the company is contributing a $400 health benefit premium to every employee, then every employee with company sponsored health care is getting an extra $400 into their paycheck by not having to pay that money for health benefits.

            If they give people with no dependents $400 and people with dependents $800, then the people with dependents are getting $400 more into their paychecks than people without dependents.

            As a employee without kids, I’d be pissed as hell.

            1. Captain Raymond Holt*

              ^ You got it! The costs for EVERYONE went down. Mine went down $400 to $0, coworker’s also went down by $400 (which was still $400).

            2. TechWorker*

              In the U.K, private health insurance if bought as an individual costs depending on your pre-existing health conditions. If it’s via a company, they often even it out and exclude preexisting conditions such that the cost is the same for each employee. If you’re a young healthy employee, would you still be ‘pissed as hell’ that more of that money is going to the costs for unhealthy employees….?

              (I can see feeling a bit put out, but ‘pissed as hell’? Really?)

              1. Altair*

                I’ve heard people say that exactly such a setup pissed them off. Of course, they were young healthy libertarians. Now that some time has passed and some of them aren’t young and healthy anymore I’m tempted to check in with them and see if they feel the same.

            3. Cat*

              I’d be surprised if you hadn’t worked somewhere with some kind of arrangement like that, even if not that dramatic. It’s very common.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              I decline healthcare benefits because my spouse’s employer provides a better plan (more buying power/larger pool than my organization has). I do not get paid the amount of my premium that my employer pays for my coworkers but not for me. This means my coworkers who use the our employer’s health insurance, dollar for dollar, are getting several hundred dollars more than I am per month. Same for the other benefits that either don’t apply to me or I choose to purchase elsewhere.

              Why am I supposed to be “mad as hell” that there is not 100% parity in my benefits package? Am I also supposed to be angry at the people whose use the benefits more or have conditions that increase the costs of our benefits?

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                But there *is* 100% parity. You’re just choosing to not opt into that parity. It’s offered the same, across the board, which is parity. You certainly have the option to take advantage of your employer’s contribution to your health insurance premiums. The childfree person who gets less benefits that parents doesn’t have the option to get those additional benefits. It’s not something freely offered that they’re opting out of. They are excluded from it. That’s the difference.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  My company has any number of benefits that I am excluded from because my life choices make them irrelevant to me. They pay for some pet insurance, and I’m not going to buy a dog to take advantage of that benefit. They also provide assistance with elder care for people caring for parents – I don’t get that either because thankfully, my mother is still able to care for herself. There are all sorts of benefits that are not relevant to people’s specific life situations/choices.

                  Maybe it’s because we don’t have 100% parity that this is just a total non-issue for me – my company actually scales benefits contribution percentages based on salary band, so I would pay more (both in dollars and percentage) for my health insurance than someone in a lower band would. I think I do pay the higher level for my vision and dental, actually.

            5. Ominous Adversary*

              So the single employees should be pissed as hell about the company paying premiums for employees’ spouses, right? Maybe more so, because arguably a spouse might have the option of getting insurance through their own job, which a minor child almost certainly does not.

              1. Chinook*

                This whole argument is confused because I have never worked for a company that didn’t pay the same percentage of premiums regardless of dependent status. In fact, the only way you can opt a dependent (or the employee herself) out of this coverage is to show they have coverage elsewhere, and even then it is only recommended if they have excellent coverage with no copays or minimums (very rare and usually means your employer knows the employee is risking injury for routine work like military or police). Maybe this is a Canadian thing?

                Nobody finds it unfair, but because it is so common, nobody bats an eye at one employee costing the employer more than another. It is the same with life insurance or even employee family discounts or paying professional fees. I have help run reports on employee benefits vs. employee wages and the discrepancy can be huge even in a unionized environment, but it is also considered a cost of doing business because humans are not exact copies of each other.

            6. kt*

              But the premium is a cost for a service/benefit that you choose to use or not. You can *not* use your employer’s health insurance and thus not pay that premium. In addition, most places the premium is not linked to the amount of your salary — the premium is the same whether you’re paid a lot or a little. This idea that the company paying premiums is “giving everyone $400” is false: they are giving the insurance company $400, and so for employees who use the insurance, taking $400 off their expenses, but employees who don’t use the insurance get no benefit at all. Is that fair?

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I omitted it because I didn’t think it was relevant, but my organization does scale premium payment by salary. Those in the higher salary bands pay a greater portion of the premium than those in lower bands. And, regardless of whether that $400 goes to the insurance company or to the employee, it’s $400 the employer is out for the employee’s benefit and would be included in a “total compensation package” calculation. (My old HR director loved those and sent them out annually to justify why we weren’t owed market salary because of how much our benefits were worth.)

                Regardless, I think that feeling slighted because an employer spends $800 on a coworker’s insurance and only $400 on yours is odd, and certainly not something to be enraged over. So few employers provide decent benefits that to be huffy that an employer actually wanted to treat all of their employees as valuable resources doesn’t sit right with me.

            7. Saberise*

              And the other thing people tend to forget is that there isn’t an unlimited amount of money sitting there. If they pay everyone’s insurance 100% than that is less money they have to do other things such as giving larger annual raises. So yeah it really would effect that single person if a family of 6 was covered 100%. Where I work everyone gets the same amount of their coverage paid for, I have my husband on my insurance, so I pay more. I have no problem with that. And considering one of his medications is $12k a month without prescription coverage, I’m actually good with the $300 a month I pay for him.

          3. Captain Raymond Holt*

            First of all, the employer did NOT commit to paying 100% of the premiums for everyone. They committed to paying 100% of the individual employee’s premiums for all employees, NOT dependents or spouses. This STILL brings down the cost for everyone.

            “They are getting their full premium paid because the premiums are higher for that class of employee” – that’s the problem. She’s getting more coverage because she’s covering 4 people (her + 3 kids) than I am covering one. That’s more expensive because there are more people.

            Several people were angry because the single/no dependents were paying $. Admittedly $0 is a very satisfying number. BUT the $400 was deducted from everyone’s premium. I was paying $400, now I’m paying $0. If you were paying $800, now you’re paying $400. So everyone is saving the same amount of money.

        2. Willis*

          Um, some companies pay a portion of their employees’ family health insurance premiums. However fair or unfair you may think that is, it’s legal. Your company could have decided to pay 100% for family coverage as well, if they chose to.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s perfectly legal for a company to pay 100% of health insurance premiums, including child care and spouses, even though that means some people’s insurance will cost the company more.

          1. A313*

            I understand this. However, in preparing the forms to give employees at the end of the year showing the employer’s “cost” to employ them (salary, health insurance, etc.), people who had covered children and/or spouses were costing my employer vastly more than I was, and I was their manager. I was happy the company paid all of my and everyone’s health insurance, but it felt weird, possibly unfair, and I couldn’t/can’t put my finger on exactly why.

            1. TTDH*

              There is a mindset among many privileged people (NB: I myself am privileged in many ways, and using that word wouldn’t be a knock against them even if I wasn’t, just a descriptor) that what we need is equality, when really what we need is equity. The mindset persists because privileged people can use it to justify not providing well enough for less privileged people, and as such it has been enshrined in the popular consciousness (at least in the US, don’t know where you are) as correct despite being deeply unfair everywhere other than on the surface.

              Even if you are someone without privilege, you’ve probably heard versions of this mindset your entire life, so when you see something that promotes equity (insurance paid for all employees and their families) rather than equality (equal dollar amount spent on each employee) it may rub you the wrong way. However, the idea is to promote better work/productivity/loyalty/other business need by removing the barrier of having to pay for health insurance. If the employer pays the insurance for everyone, they get the effect they desire.

      4. Forecat*

        One of the easiest eays to accomplish this in the US is to let employees opt into an employee funded dependent FSA. This has a number of benefits:

        1. No chance that parents with free childcare could use it as a bonus, which I could see hurting moral.

        2. Parents and caregivers who need more support could also self fund this at a tax free rate. I think the limit is 2,500 per dependent.

        3. If ops company ever decides to stop the funding, the dependent FSA can still be funded tax free by employees and benefits those who have to spend money on childcare etc.

        1. EggEgg*

          $2,500 annually? My company doesn’t offer this, so I’m not sure. That doesn’t seem like it would go very far–we were paying $900 a month for kiddo’s 8:30-5:00 preschool before the shutdown, and that’s a standard cost for our medium-COL area.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, I’ve used a dependent care FSA for years and realizing the amount covered like a month and half of care when my kids were little was always frustrating. Same with the $500 dependent care tax credit – like, thanks, but I spent $25k in child care so it kind of feels pointless.

        2. kt*

          I thought it was $5000 for the dependent care FSA, though if two spouses (?) are splitting it over one dependent, then $2500? I know I took out $4000 alone last year as spouse took out nothing.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          The max dependent care FSA is $5K/family – it does not increase if you have more children; childcare in my area runs $500+/week/kid for the under six set. There are also rules around who qualifies as a dependent and which care providers qualify (for example, sleepaway camp is not covered; daycamp is).

          Companies are also required to discrimination test FSA plans and can reduce contributions if the plan unfairly benefits highly-compensated employees. My FSA was cut back the past two years very severely because the lower-paid employees in my office are almost all recent college grads with no kids or empty-nesters and we failed testing and I had to repay hundreds of dollars mid-year because I’d already contributed over the revised limit.

      5. Triumphant Fox*

        My employer is such a mess when it comes to this. They want everything to be fair and equal, but really misinterpret what that means. They have an amount we pay temporary workers…no matter what kind of temp. I’m sorry, but I need a programmer, we are not going to be able to get one for the 3-month contract for the $12 an hour you paid someone to stuff envelopes last fall. I just dropped that project and we outsourced rather than have someone in-house temporarily. I can easily see them saying they can’t give a stipend to some if they don’t give to to everyone for “legal reasons” when that is not at all the case.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Under that logic, all full-time employees would also be paid equally, no matter what they do.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          You have my sympathies. I fought a losing battle on “fair does not mean same” with the HR lead at one of the last places I worked. She created all the policy to the most restrictive/rules-based positions and applied them to everyone because it wasn’t “fair” that the receptionist had to have scheduled breaks for desk coverage but the assistant with no desk coverage responsibilities could take her break any time she liked. Literally no concept of different needs for different positions.

          I wonder if she went to work for your employer?

      6. Caliente*

        Because people love to complain about people receiving things that they don’t/can’t. No matter the reason and that it makes perfect sense.

      7. Beth*

        I don’t think I said anything about legality per se! I’m personally more concerned about the potential morale hit and in-company drama that can come from being seen as favoring parents over child-free employees. This is a tense area already, and a lot of people have bad experiences with it (both parents who have been asked to sacrifice family time for work, and childfree people who have been told to work extra so parents can be home or, as in this case, denied benefits that are available to parents even though they have closely related difficulties).

        I agree that OP should be trying to funnel whatever funds they have available to the people who need them most, and if that ends up being all parents in their particular circumstance, then that’s how it works out. But a small language change from ‘parents’ to ‘caregivers’ can dodge a lot of tension, and also probably does a better job of capturing OP’s intent to support employees in difficult positions. (Unless, OP, you actually mean specifically that you want to help with covering care for dependent children but not with, say, a dependent developmentally delayed sibling who can no longer go to a care group during the day? But based on your language, I’m betting you actually would like to have less common cases like that have the possibility of inclusion, if they’re an issue for your employees; you just can’t think of every edge case.)

        1. Chinook*

          Yes. The caregiver language to me is vital. I am childless and wouldn’t resent helping out those with children, but I would also not expect to be dinged if DH is injured and I have to leave work to take him home from the ER (which on employer did despite me showing up for the shift after learning DH was in the hospital).

      8. Amaranth*

        What concerns me is how they’d create a way to gauge actual need, and it just smacks of only parents ‘deserving’ extra help. If you can’t discriminate *against* employees due to family status, I’m not sure the optics of giving them extra benefits is any better. I can imagine a lot of resentment from people if Mary gets $500/mo but actually has her mom homeschooling her kids, or Frank’s childcare costs $350 so he gets to use the other $150 as he sees fit. Maybe Charles’ partner lost his job and they’re on food stamps, so they are struggling but it isn’t child-based.

        Do you ask for receipts or expense reports to make sure how it is used? Even if extended to support for elderly relatives, what if Grandmother has always lived with the family vs. leaving a care facility with an outbreak? Do they need to apply and give details on their individual situations, or does everyone with children under x years old or relatives over x years get a stipend? It sounds like delightful intentions but with potential to impact morale in a negative way for some employees.

    2. Sue*

      I also disagree with the suggestion to expand beyond childcare. Or I guess better put, I don’t think the OP should feel bad if cannot extend beyond childcare.
      Yes, it would be great. But OP is (1) wanting to address the specific additional cost due to school closures but (2) worried that the cost will be prohibitive if too many people want it.
      No doubt, eldercare, disabled adult care, etc are real expenses, but Covid has not changed that (for most) – unlike school closures, where every parent with a child age 5-13 has suddenly had their tax-funded childcare revoked.
      I don’t think OP should feel like they should just not bother with childcare stipends if they can’t also provide eldercare, etc., stipends.

      1. Taniwha Girl*

        I know of a company that has given a general allowance to all employees to offset costs incurred by the pandemic, including things like buying equipment to set up a home office. This company has done very well financially during the pandemic and it built a lot of goodwill (among at least 1 employee) to receive that kickback.

        I agree that OP’s company can set whatever criteria they want, but to think carefully, as Alison and Sue suggested, about the concept of “need”. Some people are hit hardest by the pandemic because they already were close to the edge, or because someone they relied on got sick. Some people’s stress relievers were concerts and swimming and now their mental health is slipping. If you want to focus specifically on school and daycare closures, I think that is OK, but also think about families with high school and college-age children who are home now–are they “needy” in the same way as someone with a toddler who needs constant supervision? What about parents where one partner is a stay-at-home parent vs. both parents working (and now providing childcare)? Can you set different amounts of allowance for different levels and types of need?

        Necessarily you will need to wade into the ethics of this, but I think as long as you can justify your decision transparently and fairly, I think people will understand.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I know this is coming from a good place, but you can’t really craft a system to give everyone an exact percentage of what they ‘deserve’. A contribution towards the obvious massive expense of replacing gvt-funded care seems perfect. Those who don’t need daycare (older kids or stay-at-home parent) presumably won’t face such expenses and so won’t claim.

          1. Junger*

            You can’t do it perfectly but you can definitely try.
            Covering most people’s problems is far better than not covering anyone at all.

          2. Taniwha Girl*

            Of course you can’t, but that’s what OP is trying to do–identify people who “deserve” more than they are getting, and help the neediest people with as much as the company can give. It’s tricky and I agree that doing something to offset lack of caregiving options available is a great idea.

        2. Venus*

          If the LW has limited funds then I think that they would be better off reimbursing expenses rather than giving an allowance to all parents. Some may have kids who are old enough to be on their own, or have a spouse who has always stayed home to do childcare. I think asking for a childcare or eldercare bill and reimbursing up to $500/month would target those who are most in need.

          1. Em*

            Depending on the money that’s available (I don’t know how much OP’s employees get paid), they might not have the wherewithal to pay up front and wait for reimbursement.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            Yes, this. Make sure the paperwork isn’t too onerous, but make it something that people have to submit for. Lots of people have spouses who aren’t working, older kids who don’t need care, grandparents who are providing care right now, etc. You’ll create resentment if people feel like parents are getting the benefit regardless of need or personal circumstances.

            But also, if you have this benefit, what does it mean for your expectations around your employees’ availability for work, and is the amount of the benefit enough to cover that? Like, $500/month is helpful, but if you’re having to hire a sitter or nanny to avoid group child care then that’s less than a week of care. Depending on circumstances, the employees receiving that benefit may still be at less than full working capacity if they have young kids at home.

      2. Jackalope*

        If someone has an elderly or disabled family member who can’t be alone (due to dementia, say), some cities (such as mine) have adult daycare so caretakers can still go to work and not worry that their family member will wander off and get lost, or set the house on fire bcs they forget to turn the stove off, or things like that. If said adult daycare is closed this can be a huge expense since in-home care is often really expensive. If you have a situation like this it’s hard to find a substitute on short notice as well; lots of people can take care of a five year old in a pinch, but not as many are willing to care for someone in their 70’s who is sundowning and freaking out. There will probably be fewer people who need it but for those who do, help paying for extra in-home care would be a godsend. Which obviously doesn’t mean the LW is required to provide it, but it could be a good idea if they’re also providing help with childcare.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, this was precisely what I had in mind. It will probably be very few people (and thus won’t double the cost or anything like that), but it will be hugely helpful to those it does affect, and by making it dependents whose care facilities are closed rather than just kids, the OP wards off the resentment that can arise about special treatment for parents when others may have similar needs.

        2. LizM*

          I disagree that COVID hasn’t impact dependent adult care. Because many dependent adults have conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID, many caregivers have seen their support network shrink significantly. I know a number of people who have pulled their parents out of care facilities and assisted living homes to limit their exposure.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            In home help disappeared in our area, residential homes basically asked people to go live with family if they could since it was lower risk (we had a swarm of outbreaks in nursing homes here).

            Even though I’m not as bad, I still rely a lot on others to operate in day to day life. I can’t get any physiotherapist appointments, nor hydrotherapy, so my mobility has completely vanished and my husband has to help me wash and dress (and we’re depending on his income since I’m unemployed) now.

            It’s….not the life I want. And I care a lot that others won’t be put in the severe stress and burnout I was. If a company or society can help those in need it’s a good thing.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            +1 to this comment. I have an acquaintance with cerebral palsy who needs an attendant daily morning and evening. Because of coronavirus concerns and staffing shortages, attendants are now often not able to arrive in time for when she needs to be ready in the morning – she has work herself, as well as graduate level online courses, so she cannot wait. So now her mother is working 3/4 time because she comes over every morning to assist. That’s a significant hit to a family’s budget over care that has nothing to do with school closures.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              My earlier comment is in moderation so just to agree with you here: I’ve got significant problems with mobility since all of my therapy was shut down and now rely on my husband for a lot of my daily stuff. Luckily his boss is cool with him taking a half hour break to give his wife a hair wash.

        3. Washi*

          Yes! I work with the elderly, and these day programs often provide meals, transportation to doctors appointments, and administer medication. It is a HUGE loss to caregivers to have those programs closed.

      3. Carlie*

        It may have changed it for other situations, though – for instance, in some states, state-funded disabled adult care facilities have not been allowed to be opened yet. If the caveat of Covid impacted care only is listed, it would include those while keeping it to the purpose of the concept. I see no problems in means testing it to employees in the most financial need.

      4. Staying In*

        Actually childcare is not the only “need” people have that is caused by the pandemic. I know older workers who don’t have children at home but are having more health issues (ie medical costs) due to stress, middle age people who are now working in non-ergonomic conditions and need physical therapy, people with working age housemates who lost their jobs and can no longer pay their share of the rent causing a hardship for all, etc… By saying, “we’ll just help parents of young kids”, you’re not taking into consideration others who might have it just as rough due to difference circumstances seeing the parents get help but not them. If you have extra better to spread it evenly instead of attempting to determine “need”.

        1. PerfectlyParticular*

          But the child (or other dependent) care need may make the employee have to choose between continuing in their role or quitting. The other circumstances, while frustrating and difficult are not so directly work-related.

        2. Colette*

          It has had an impact on everyone. I now work from home, and spent a good chunk of money on a desk + chair + monitors. But that’s not even close to the impact of having a 5 year old who isn’t going to go to school in the fall, or an elderly parent who needs care that’s not available.

          Most of the issues you mention (physical therapy, housemates who can’t pay rent) are needs, but are not the same level of responsibility as a child they no longer have childcare for.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          They’re taking care of needs that prevent people from working during their normal working hours. Obviously there are many other needs, but the company isn’t trying to fix all of those. They’re trying to make it easier for their employees to actually work.

      5. JSPA*

        It’s manifestly not true that Covid has not changed the cost of accessing elder care.

        All the city and charity-run outside the house, drop-off eldercare facilities I know of have closed, and are not looking at re-opening in the foreseeable future. Friends in other areas report same. So while this may not be universal, it’s absolutely a thing.

        If you need that level of eldercare, you need to pay someone to come into your house or perhaps there are exclu$ive private options.

      6. schnauzerfan*

        My mother is an 82 year old MS patient who live in my home. We have caregivers who stay with her while I work and grocery shop and maybe see a movie. The pandemic has changed everything. Trust. We lost one of our caregivers when she took a ft job working at a place that offered a nice slate of benefits. Trying to find anyone to take her place has been difficult to say the least, especially as we are looking for someone who doesn’t present a huge risk of bringing the virus into our home. We just fired the most recent one for showing up drunk and full of stories of reckless behavior. I’ve ended up doing as much wfh as I can, but I’m not as productive as I might be when I have to fix her lunch, and supervise the eating of it, change her and help her find a show to watch, go make her turn that show of because I have a meeting and we can’t both be streaming at the same time. Amazingly enough, it’s a full time job, caring for an elderly person. But a little extra money would help a lot, let us hire some of the respite care services to help out. Those people cost a bunch more than my “mother’s helper” caregivers from the before times. As for the dog walking? Um doggy daycare and the like have been closed as non essential for at least part of the time. The neighbor who used to help out might well be dealing with her pandemic related crises. The kid that spent summers with grandma next door is avoiding her out of caution.

        No the pandemic has changed everything for anyone with dependents (and everyone else) With a few dollars more many of your employees might be able concentrate on their work without so much worry that the family is burning down around them.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Speaking as one who currently has her husband taking care of a lot of my things because I can’t do them, you’re a strong kind person for looking after your mother.

          And seeing the stress it’s caused my other half to do this…please remember to look after yourself too!

          (Basically you’re awesome and deserve all the assistance)

          1. schnauzerfan*

            Thanks. We’re actually very lucky. Employers have been very understanding about the need for flexibility and wfh (which was never a possibility before) Mom is still healthy and I actually love the curbside grocery shopping so it’s not all darkness and pain here.

        2. Altair*

          I hear you — my SO is in the same situation, which is one of the reasons I’ve only seen him on Skype for four months now. I send you all the strength.

      7. Beth*

        I think Covid actually has changed this for many people. A dependent who could previously attend a care group during the work day now needs a dedicated person at home with them. There are some cases where the dependent is an adult where that won’t apply, either because they’re able to handle a couple hours alone, or because their needed care is such that group care wouldn’t work and they already needed 24/7 home care…but there are also tons of cases where it’s really not that different from young children needing care.

        I’m betting most of OP’s employees who would need a caregiving stipend will end up being parents of young children. That’s the most common need case by far. But opening up the language to caregiving more broadly has a couple advantages: it removes the appearance of this being a parents vs non-parents thing (which is a tense issue for a lot of people), and it opens up the possibility of catching one or two edge cases who have similar needs but not specifically for children (which I can’t imagine will change the budget much, overall, and could do a lot to boost morale and make employees feel supported). I think OP would be better served by specifying e.g. that this is to cover costs specifically caused by loss of other care during the pandemic, than limiting it to children specifically.

        1. Chinook*

          Basically, the optics of opening the language will cost not much more but will create a lot of goodwill and may evn retain employees who can see the possibility of taking care of parents in the future. It may even lead to smoother transitions if someone is retiring to take care of a spouse or parent because they can afford to be at work to train their replacement, causing fewer problems when they are gone.

    3. Sharkie*

      My dad’s company has a stipend like this and it kept a lot of employees (especially women) from having to leave to take care of loved ones. In May they expanded it to include pet care/ dog walkers on heavy meeting days. There is also talks to expand the stipend to include labor for home renovations to create a home office (example -adding a door to a space or buying those foam soundproofing panels). It would be silly for companies to not consider helping lessen if they are able!

      1. NotJennifer*

        Trying to sound earnest and not snarky but… what did these people do before March? If their pets required care/walks during the day, weren’t they already paying for pet daycare and/or walkers when they were working outside the home? Wouldn’t meeting heavy days working from home be the same as meeting heavy days working from the office, and/or if they WFH before didn’t they also have occasional meeting heavy days before March?

        I was going to tell the LW that be ready to have a stance on people asking for extra things where expenses were not affected by the pandemic, like doggy daycare reimbursement. But correct me if I’m wrong that something did change?

        (I’m not saying that employers shouldn’t cover this. Just trying to figure out how the pandemic changed these costs for people. Also, if they are going to cover pet care stuff, they should be prepared to cover it on top of child daycare stuff. There are people with kids and pets.)

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Yes, I didn’t understand the pet care stipend either, and I hope Sharkie can clarify.

          Only thing I can maybe think of is some pets saw their human’s days off as fair game to get all the attention they wanted, and so had more play time and more walks on these days. Since to them it seems everyday is now a day off as their humans are home, they could be going sulky not getting the attention they want. I know my dog was a little whiny through April, and we needed to reset her expectations a little. But I don’t think a pet care stipend, great as it is for pet owners, is really necessary for this.

          1. Sharkie*

            So my dad works for a bio tech firm, so there are lots of hours long planning meetings. With everything going on right now they are throwing perks at people to stay/ not get burnt/ be hip/ say that they care about their worker out so the (temporary) mid day dog walking is on top of day care if needed. I don’t know how many people are using it, our family just found it funny.

        2. JSPA*

          Asking your at-risk, at-home relative or your devil-may-care, at-home neighbor to stop by and let the dog out may be a lot more fraught than it used to be.

          1. No name brand*

            Yeah, just found out that one pair of neighbors, plus their adult children all have tested positive. Yet, they’re always leaving the house to go somewhere by vehicle.

        3. a clockwork lemon*

          Most people with dog walkers don’t use the walkers when they’re home, because most people can arrange their lunches etc. accordingly. If someone has hours-long meetings where they’re on a timetable set to accommodate other people, it can be difficult to accommodate that for the dog, especially if you have a high energy or particularly social dog who wants to be all up in your business or a dog who’s used to going on an hour-long walk every day at 1:30pm and will bark/whine/otherwise act like a jerk if they’re busy.

          I’ve never put my dogs in daycare prior to the pandemic, because working at the office means I don’t really have to worry about what they’re doing at home in their crates while I’m gone. Six months into full-time working from home with dogs who will whine like the world’s most annoying birds if they’re crated and can also see me, if I could swing $40-60/day to get them out of the house and also have them come home exhausted, I’d do it no question.

        4. Beth*

          I’m going to bet a lot of people had a neighborhood kid stop by but with fall looming are now concerned about someone who’s going to school in-person being in their house, or sent them to daycare but now feel the need for a private walker for exposure reasons. There are probably scenarios where pet care costs have increased.

          Personally, as a pet owner myself, I’m less concerned about this case than I am about child/elder/disabled adult care. Even in cases where there are differences in cost from pre-pandemic to now, they’re not likely to be nearly on the same scale, simply because pet care costs a lot less than human care. The odds of someone feeling the need to quit their job because staying home for pet care is their most-viable financial option feel pretty slim, and I think that’s the level of impact OP is trying to address here. But it probably is true that some people have experienced increased costs.

    4. blackcat*

      Yes, this is a good idea.
      I know several people now paying $$$$ for daily in-home care of elderly relatives that had been in nursing homes. COVID tore through nursing homes here–one near me had something like 50 deaths–and wanting to reduce the risk by hiring in-home care (who is maybe working for 2-3 families) makes a lot of sense. It’s HARD though, financially.

    5. Mama Bear*

      I agree that caregiving stipends or support should be offered in general. At least one of my coworkers is caring for a spouse at home without the daytime skilled nursing that is usually available. Additionally, if there are any other laws or provisions that could be used to support people during this time (like intermittent FMLA) please remind them of their options. This is an excellent way for a company to show they care.

  4. Language Lover*

    We have virtual get togethers too; although they’re not billed as happy hours. The only rule of these get togethers is for them not to be filled with “work” talk which means we’ve had events around TV trivia, movie trivia and music trivia. I’m kind of tired of trivia so I’d be excited if the theme of the next get together were to be “Never Have I Ever.”

    But the reason I’d be excited is that, so far, all of our virtual get togethers have been very professionally appropriate even though work talk is basically prohibited. I would expect the “Never Have I Ever” categories to be equally work appropriate with questions both about work (like never buying lunch at the cafeteria) and outside stuff (had a pet).

    You know your place of work so I think Alison’s advice is good if you think there’s any chance your colleague will ask inappropriate questions. You could also try to schedule a sudden conflict if you’d rather bow out.

    There’s also the third option of showing up and looking suitably confused at questions that are not work appropriate.

    1. Courtney*

      I did a quick Google and there are plenty of example questions online which are work appropriate, so perhaps OP can gently suggest that if the organiser doesn’t have that covered already.

      Sounds like you have a great system of work get togethers, too. I love it! My work tends to steer into work talk, because it’s the only thing we all have in common (we’re all different ages and backgrounds). I would love something like you have!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Husband unit told me his team have set up a weekly Cards Against Humanity game over video link…and I coughed my tea through my sinuses. Then he told me they did it outside work hours and not on the company network. Phew!

        (I’m currently creating lateral thinking puzzles for my older relatives to take to work and share. They’re pretty humorous)

        1. Ominous Adversary*

          Don’t be relieved. Husband is still playing CAH with co-workers. It’s less bad now that they’re keeping it off the company network, but still a terrible idea.

          1. Nacho*

            I played CAH with my boss and a coworker during our monthly virtual happy hour last week. It just depends on your work’s atmosphere.

    2. Jackalope*

      I’ve only ever played this game at youth group events so I didn’t even know that a racy version existed. (Of course, we were playing the version where everyone who had done the thing got up and ran to a new chair and the person in the middle tried to get someone else’s chair, which might be tough for a Zoom meeting!) It could of course get wild but I think there’s a good chance of it staying work appropriate. A few types of questions we often had that could stay reasonable: travel-related questions (never been outside your home country, never been to Specific Location, etc.,) and general experience questions (bungie jumping, skydiving, playing the cello, painting with watercolors, whatever) can be pretty safe.

      1. Rez123*

        I’ve played the tame version with my scout girls and the raunchy version with friends/parties etc. The girls always want to play ‘adult’ games that they have seen on the internet. The questions can be anyhting.

        I personally find the tame version more fun. You actually get to know the person better and find out really random things. Whereas knowing if a person has had anal or had someone ejaculate on their face doesn’t really provide more than giggles (these were the opening statements the last time I played and nobody at the party really knew each other. Good times)

        1. Quinalla*

          Agreed, the tame version is more fun IMO too especially when the group is not drunk. But yeah, I too would gently make sure that was what was being proposed because you never know with people :)

        2. Alanna*

          My friends and I played the racy version in college, but now that we’re in our mid-30s, the same group defaults to a much tame(r) one — turns out adults don’t really want to know that much about one another’s sex lives (especially if partners are in the room). (We don’t do this often, but it is a component of a bigger drinking game we sometimes play for old time’s sake at reunions and the like.)

      2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

        Personally, I wouldn’t even want travel / life experience type of questions in a workplace group setting, particularly if it places one person very much outside the norm of the rest of the team’s experience and makes them feel like an outsider (the exact opposite of what team bonding is supposed to do).

        I’d prefer work-specific questions like “Never have I ever had the photocopier jam on me five minutes before a presentation”, or “Never have I ever accidentally sent an email to the wrong person” – relatively low-stakes, silly stuff.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          We should create the Ask A Manager version! Never have I ever swapped pants with a coworker?

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            Never have I ever stolen my coworker’s spicy food!

            Never have I ever asked my coworkers to call my boyfriend my master!

            Never have I ever put magic curses on my coworkers!

          2. Lady Meyneth*

            Never have I ever been asked to donate my liver!

            Never have I ever ended an email with stay gold!

            Never have I ever quacked!

            1. KayDeeAye*

              LOL – these are *great*!

              Never have I ever suddenly assumed an English accent.

              Never have I ever included the words “I am the best candidate for this job” in an application email.

          3. Summer Anon*

            This would be great! And I think it would create an opportunity for people to tell stories about their “never have I evers”.
            Besides AAM themed ones, you could think of other generic office faux pas.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much solidarity with that particular story as I do now.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah I’ve only seen Never Have I Ever as an icebreaker at like retreats and youth groups and stuff. There’s nothing inherent to the game that means you have to ask racy questions – It’s usually things like I’ve never had the chickenpox, I’ve never been to Disneyland, etc.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Same! Today my innocence was shattered. And my go-to in college was always “never have I ever flown on a plane” because until age 22, I had never left my home state. That one always got lots of people to move!

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think my only experience with Never Have I Ever is somewhere between what you all are describing and “racy”. We played it as a drinking game in college, but it was usually things like “never have I ever been pants”, “never have I ever taken a shot of vodka”, “never have I ever cut class”…it a weird mix of drinking behavior and life things but almost never sex.

      4. blackcat*

        My favorite work “never have I ever” question was “Never have I ever spun around so fast in an office chair that I fell out.”
        That was about as embarrassing as anything got, and it was a good one!

      5. Librarian of SHIELD*

        We used to play the game this way in my old church’s high school and college groups. We destroyed a LOT of furniture, but the questions were rarely of the inappropriate variety.

    3. Taniwha Girl*

      In my experience, the tone of this game is set by the first couple people to play, and then by the response to the first racy “never have I ever”. If the response is giggles and people indicating yes/no, then the topics will get raunchier from there. If the response is cold silence or shocked faces, it will get awkward and stop. As long as someone (the facilitator? The Popular One? OP? The manager?) shuts down the first person to cross the line, others should follow that example.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Yeah, me too. I’ve played both versions and usually they always start safe. But my starter question is always “Never have I ever gotten my ears pierced” since most of the people I’ve played with wear earrings and everyone forgets I wear clip-ons. It’s super low stakes and most people follow the lead then and stick with pretty silly ones for a while. Daisy (below) also has some good ideas with books and movies. Especially with pop-culture, if you haven’t seen Star Wars or GoT then it’s perfect for this game, it’s unique enough that people are like “whoa dude, really?” and it’ll give others more ideas on how to expand their Never Have I evers. And thirding Mainly Lurking & Harper the Other One, mundane workplace stuff is great to use in this game. “Never have I ever cause a reply all chain” would be hilarious.

    4. Daisy*

      My friends and I play a version of Never Ever (still drinking) with films and/or books. Like, ‘I’ve never seen Citizen Kane’ or ‘I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code’, and you drink if you have seen/read it. That’s quite fun.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I think you’re right about it likely to be work-appropriate.

      That said, if I was the OP I’d just skip it. Unless your job is particularly precarious, I think it’s good to skip social events you don’t want to attend. OP said the event is during working hours. So just work. I wouldn’t even make up a conflict – I’d just not show (and RSVP “no” to a calendar request or send a brief email “Thanks, I won’t be there this week”). No conflicts. Just decline.

      If the organizer asks why, evade if needed or better yet, tell the truth – “I’m not into that game.” That’s a service to them.

      1. Always Late to the Party*

        My read was that OP enjoyed these events generally but didn’t think Never Have I Ever could be a work appropriate game (which I think this thread has proved is not necessarily the case!) and that’s why they were hesitant to attend,

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I only played this game once and it was definitely a raunchy version, that got progressively worse the farther in the game we got and the more drinks were consumed. We played it with a deck of cards though, which was where the questions came from. I am really liking all the work-friendly versions being proposed here – the book/film one sounds fantastic! I’d maybe check in with the organizer to see what the questions will be like.

      1. KaciHall*

        Versions that start slightly risqué are usually horribly raunchy by the end. I remember playing on a school field trip (with chaperones!) and by the end of the game the adult in the group was making us blush. (Admittedly, looking back I don’t think anything was actually that inappropriate… Just not what you expect your friend’s mom to say!)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          We were all adults. It was wild. People were hitting on each other by the end (which I’m pretty sure is one of the objectives of the game). It was a gathering at a hotel, so I don’t rule out the possibility that some people ended up spending the night together after bonding over the game. Definitely not something I would want to experience at work!

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It could be a slippery slope. The game could start with work related questions (which to be honest I think would be super boring) and lead into more personal type questions as people drink more and get more comfortable. And for me, answering personal questions (whether they’re raunchy or not) is not something I want to do with a group of colleagues.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Well, it could be fun if they were questions about semi-embarassing things that might happen at work. “Never have I ever had my pants rip right before a presentation.” or “Never have I ever had to ask an intern to swap pants with me.” As long as the questions aren’t toooooo embarrassing, then it could be entertaining.

        It’s definitely a slippery slope, though…and not something I would have suggested!

      2. TiffIf*

        You don’t actually have to play with alcohol–I’ve literally never played it that way.

      3. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Yes. I think that to run this game as a work event, the leader should give some guidance ahead of time “You might have played this game in wilder situations, but here we’re going to keep everything work-safe and inclusive for everyone. Let me know if you have questions” and should also be prepared to step in immediately if the leader’s intuition or any side-channel chat indicates discomfort.

        Also, the organizer should anticipate that some people won’t have played the game themselves, but by googling or by asking their young adult family members might hear that it’s always a game where people have to reveal things about their sexual history. Other people might have significant boundaries around what their co-workers know about them (I’m thinking of LGBTQ2S+ people, but there might be a divorce, a criminal record, a postgraduate degree, a current pregnancy, a workplace romance, a serious illness, a competing job offer …) and just the concept of playing a game where they might need to either come out about something or lie and get away with it … ugh.) It’s important to provide more detail up-front for these people as well.

    8. asterisk*

      Never have I ever played the raunchy version (ha!) (I didn’t know there WAS a raunchy version).

      I’ve played it at parties/youth groups/baby showers with M&Ms or Skittles, as in, everyone gets a small number of candies, and every time that you’ve done something mentioned, you have to eat one, and the first one to eat them all “wins/loses/whatever”. I’ve also done a variant where the person who’s “it” steals a piece of candy from anyone who has done what “it” hasn’t, so the person with the most candy when the first person runs out wins.

      Anyway, I guess all that to say that it’s not always a drinking game and the questions aren’t necessarily going to go in questionable directions. I think the pop-culture suggestions are a great idea! I don’t know what your relationship with your coworkers is like, but I think it would be fine to jump in with a bright, bubbly tone and say something to the effect of “Hey, we’re still on the clock–let’s keep this work-appropriate!” as soon as questions start to get…questionable.

    9. Ann O'Nemity*

      If you want “Never Have I Ever” to stay tame, I recommend making a deck of cards (or a virtual equivalent) to use. I’ve seen this game played in the workplace and some people got carried away asking increasingly inappropriate questions. It was hard to steer it back!

    10. theletter*

      I’m not sure about points or drinking, I’ve always played it with fingers – players hold up ten fingers, losing one for each thing they have done. Last person with fingers still up wins.

      I would think work appropriate NHIE would be fun and insightful. There’s always things people want to try or wish they could do – like working in some competitive field, visiting another country, outdoor sports activities, etc.

      It might not be a bad idea to specify that you’re interested in a ‘boy/girl scouts’ version of NHIE, just in case someone is unclear. I for one was not aware of the grandparents-appropriate version of the game, but I think that might actually be the norm.

      You know another game that’s easy to do over zoom is Balderdash – you can use the private chat sessions or texts instead of the little post-it notes, it’s actually easier.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I completely forgot about Balderdash. One of my favorite old party games, but haven’t played in years.

    11. Quill*

      Never have I ever can be extremely tame (never have I ever been to europe, never have I ever burnt coffee in the office coffeepot, never have I ever been to a rock concert) as we usually played it in middle school theater, or extremely inappropriate, as it’s often played in college, especially while drinking.

      I’d say go ahead and trust that the majority of the people here want to keep it somewhat professional. And to start the game before anyone’s finished a drink.

  5. Sue*

    #4 – I think only in lizard alien who is new to the planet would think it’s appropriate to share that someone is 15 weeks pregnant. I get Alison’s point that OP could have said not to share, but I really think it’s implicit at that early pregnancy stage to anyone from planet earth.
    It would be like sharing with your boss that you’re having extreme anxiety and depression, and in treatment with a mental health professional – and then the next day your boss saying, I’ve shared that with the entire team, and we’re all really supportive.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I do think that OPs boss comes off either a bit clueless about social norms, or carelessly willing to ignore them cause he wants to tell news. Either way, I think OP saying something may make him re-think sharing news like this (OPs or other people’s) in the future, so that may be another benefit to speaking up.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      I don’t know, I think for most people anything post 12 weeks announced without an added ‘please keep this confidential’ seems like something you could talk about if it came up. For me it’s the being the boss and being told for work related reasons that makes it a problem.
      Some people do decide to wait until the 20 w scan but many people are visibly pregnant by then (people were offering me seats on the metro at 14w) so it’s not an option to wait for many.

      1. WS*

        +1, for most people 12 weeks is the sharing date. Obviously there’s exceptions to that for good reasons, and the boss shouldn’t have shared the news, but I don’t think it’s “alien who is new to the planet” level.

      2. Sue*

        We had a disastrous 20 wk scan, and the pregnancy did not continue. After that experience, with pregnancy #2 (successful! healthy!) I basically vowed not to tell anyone until I enrolled him in kindergarten. That’s what I apply to everyone else.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Sorry for your loss. I also got bad news at the 20 week scan, but I didn’t really have the option of keeping it to myself as people could see clearly that I was pregnant, whether they asked or not. I personally never ask and never assume that people are pregnant, but if we’re honest about what people generally do rather than what they would do in an ideal world, people are fairly open about pregnancy post 12 weeks and they do treat it by default as happy uncomplicated news.

        2. MK*

          I am sorry for your expierience, but that doesn’t mean that anyone who thinks differently is “a lizard alien who is new to the planet”. Cutlural norms differ wildly, but 3 months into the pregancy tends to be a more accepted time frame than 4-5 years after birth.

          I think the boss was somewhat thoughtless, but not weird or boorish to mention the news to coworkers. To be frank, I have little sympathy with “they should have known better than to tel anyone this news I just told them, I shouldn’t have to say it was confidential”. In some cases, yes, when you are very close to the person involved and depending what the issue is, you might be able to take it for granted that it won’t go any further; but if you tell your boss about your pregnancy, the boss is not stupid for taking it as “pregnancy is now announced at work” and sharing the news. Better not to, of course, but not wildly inappropriate.

          1. Forrest*

            That depends a lot on context for me. 12+ weeks and it’s mentioned in a casual conversation, knock yourself out. 12+ weeks and it’s mentioned in the context of a one-to-one with your manager about next year’s planning–there should definitely be an expectation of confidentiality there.

            1. Pocket Mouse*

              Genuine question: when a pregnancy is disclosed to planning purposes, as you say, do you expect the news to travel up the chain of command (even if you ask/expect it to not be shared with peers)?

              1. Littorally*

                Depending on the pregnant person’s position, it may have to move up the chain — but that should be handled in the same way the original conversation was handled re: confidentiality. It’s a business planning item that should be disclosed on a need-to-know basis, not a fun social fact that should be announced to everyone.

              2. Quinalla*

                Sharing up the chain of command (in confidence) I would expect personally for planning purposes, etc., though it would good for the manager to disclose that to the employee.

              3. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Both times I told my boss I was pregnant, I anticipated he would at least tell his boss. Especially with the first time since it was at the end of my first week that I told him I was 5 months pregnant (and not particularly showing because of Reasons) — that’s what you get when your hiring process takes 3 freaking months, though.

              4. Forrest*

                As necessary for business purposes. I think it should be clear to managers what is “here’s exciting happy gossip!” and “here’s information I’m sharing for a legitimate business need”, and if it’s not they should spend some quality time thinking about that!

        3. Pregnant Letter Writer*

          That is a nightmare. I’m so sorry you went through that, and so happy to hear that you had a successful and happy pregnancy #2. My preference would have been to wait until the 20 week scan (my husband will wait to tell his job until then). I think I felt pressured in the meeting, because we were specially talking about Covid accommodations for work, and my doctor just informed that I had needed them. That being said, it’s totally on me that I shared — it could have waited! Or I could have been clearer about privacy.

          1. JSPA*

            I’d personally default to not discussing someone’s body or personal life, and to me, discussing a pregnancy is most often in that category.

            But if a boss is nailing down work accommodations well in advance, it can be reasonable to disclose, especially as pregnancy is unusual in that there’s a pretty good approximate timeline, but the dates are not as predictable as, say, travel dates.

            Also, you are currently focused on needing to quarantine for two weeks before, as a Covid protection. But I’d assume you’re not also planning to be back at work the day after giving birth? So that’s in total a longer period needing coverage. You didn’t have to disclose the pregnancy as a pregnancy, but once the boss knows about it, it makes sense to factor that into, “will need coverage.”

            And advice on Covid exposure and pregnancy is still evolving, now that some evidence is coming in, for in-utero risk. If boss knows that, it factors in, as well.

            And there’s every reason to expect that people will be out sick for extended periods, and coverage may be more difficult than the norm. Again, this is part of the backdrop, even if it’s not specific to you.

            So it’s not at all strange for the boss to want to start brainstorming coverage sooner than later.

            Could he have talked around the actual fact? Sure. But I can’t think of a way to discuss that situation that would not make it clear that the issue under discussion is, in fact, a pregnancy. I suppose you could leave people assuming it’s either pregnancy or cancer, but surely that would lead to more fear, stress and drama than appropriate.

            Frankly, in that pregnancy doesn’t have to be disclosed, I’d say that this particular accommodation could also have waited, but that’s 20/20 hindsight.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              The email the boss sent out was not, “Hey we’re going to need coverage for English Lit in the 2nd semester–anyone know a good long-term sub?” It wasn’t about planning. It was a feel-good, “Congrats to PLW on her pregnancy!” missive. She trusts that it was well-intentioned, but it was a little clueless on his part.

          2. AKchic*

            I don’t think you needed to be clearer about privacy at all.

            You were there to discuss medical accommodations, not gossip. The fact that your boss shared the news with everyone was a gossipy news thing. It wasn’t a medical alert. It wasn’t a “hey, this is COVID-related, I’d like everyone to be aware” this was “guess who’s got a bundle of joy on the waaaaaay”. Your boss had the goss and wanted everyone to know that he knew before they knew. He only learned about it because private medical information was being discussed.

            Accommodation talk goes up, not down, the chain. You had a reasonable expectation of privacy (in regards to him not sharing with your coworkers).
            I would definitely be saying something to the boss about it. Even if it is a polite “I was planning on announcing my pregnancy to my coworkers when I saw them in September. I am unsure of why it was necessary for you to tell them ahead of time, as it’s not a covid-related safety issue”.

            In the future, I would hesitate to confide in this boss at all.

        4. JSPA*

          With great sympathy, there’s really no good way to navigate that situation. It’s a bad situation.

          There are two flavors of how it’s bad. We’ve had people post to say, “when it happened to me, nobody (at least officially) knew I’d been pregnant, and there was no context for my sudden despair.” And others post to say, “It made it so much worse that people knew I had been pregnant, and the word had spread, so that months after, people who barely knew me would ask how the baby was.”

          Saying nothing doesn’t mean people won’t see the bump, or talk about it; it doesn’t fully insulate someone from the “so, I heard you were pregnant, how’s the kid” questions.

          One has every right to not disclose, or to limit disclosure. But it’s a right one has to claim, not a universal default.

      3. Pregnant Letter Writer*

        Original question asker here — I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it was because he was the boss. I wouldn’t have been annoyed if I had told a coworker and they shared (because presumably, if I’m telling people it’s not private.) I only shared with my boss because they were asking for Covid modifications prior to August 1st, and I’ll need an additional 2 weeks to WFH and quarantine in addition to my maternity leave. That being said, I’m now 17 weeks pregnant and there is NO hiding it, so everyone would have known if we were in person anyways ;)

        1. ALH*

          My manager announced my pregnancy to our section by sending an email asking for interest in covering my maternity leave. I was also about 15-16 weeks and while some close friends/colleagues knew, I hadn’t made a general announcement and wasn’t showing yet. I was irritated — she could at least have asked/given me the heads up before sending the email! Congratulations, I hope your pregnancy is as easy and healthy as mine was (she’s now six and a half and full of beans!).

          1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

            Oh, that would have made me mad! That’s shocking.

            Thanks for the well wishes! I’m finally feeling like myself again after a terrible first trimester. Trying to enjoy these moments!

      4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I disagree. It doesn’t matter if OP shared this with her boss (or anyone for that matter) – it’s not his news to share whether she told him to keep it to himself or not.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        I think it’d be understandable if it was someone who’d never encountered pregnancy before and didn’t know the conventions. If boss is a single man or has no kids it’s believable.

        Before I got pregnant I knew that people waited to a specific point but I didn’t know when that point was, and my husband knew even less than I did, even though my sister-in-law and stepsister-in-law had 5 kids between them by then.

      6. Alice's Rabbit*

        It doesn’t matter when you’re told, you don’t go telling people the news without direct instructions to do so. It’s not your baby. You don’t get to tell everyone. That’s the parents’ prerogative, unless they specifically state otherwise.
        You especially don’t go telling people that they interact with themselves. Mentioning it to higher ups they don’t really talk to is one thing (“We have one teacher who is expecting, so we’ll need to arrange maternity coverage in another 6 months or so” is fine. “Oh my gosh, everyone, So-and-so is having a baby!” is not). Telling their coworkers is not.
        The boss was told because it was information he needed as the boss. Like any other medical condition, it’s his responsibility to not gossip about it. This is a huge breech of trust.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      To be clear: I think OP’s boss was boorish and in the wrong.

      That said, my experience has been the norms on this can vary, depending on the person’s background (age, culture, past exposure to pregnancy, etc). I think it would be valuable for OP to make a habit of being explicit about what her hopes – that way is less likely to end in disappointment.

      1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

        I totally agree with Mystery Bookworm’s and Alison’s advice to be more explicit about my expectations for privacy in the future. In the context of our conversation, I didn’t even THINK to bring up privacy, since we were talking about it in the context of medical accommodations, not in the context of sharing happy news. Either way, I’m not heartbroken about this, just trying to learn to be a better communicator in the work environment. Super grateful for everyone’s perspectives!

      2. Lexi Kate*

        In my experience it has been a more gendered response. I’ve had 3 kids while under 3 different managers 2 men ( 30ish, and 50ish), and 1 woman (30ish). Both male managers never asked me or future pregnant colleagues about announcing to the group our pregnancies, but the female manager asked in the meeting when I told her if it was OK to share the news to the team. Granted this was all before C-19 was a thing, so I waited to tell my boss until I was ready to let people know.

        **My husband while watching me write this said my thought on this is not fair that they told the group because they need to get a plan together on how to keep things afloat while your off for maternity leave. So it may be just a different thought process.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Even if they do need to make a plan, a boss still needs permission before sharing private medical information.

      3. Sylvan*

        +1. I only learned this norm from online discussions like this one. I’m glad I did learn it before this ever came up!

        Also, yes, if there’s something specific you want, it’s best to verbalize that.

    4. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I think it depends on who the news was being shared with. It seems possible from the letter that the boss shared the news with just the people who needed to know for work-related purposes (like finding a sub to fill in for OP, doing something with health care, etc) but the way he worded his email didn’t make it clear. I think that’s a reasonable thing for the boss to have done. If he just mass e-mailed the whole staff, then yes, totally a lizard-alein move.

      1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

        As far as I know, he only told a small group of people. His perspective may have been that it was helpful to tell for planning purposes (that’s not my perspective — they will not fill my position during the time I’m gone, no one will someone take over my job duties. They will just do without during my leave. I am not essential to the schools day to day functioning).

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Honestly his intentions are irrelevant here. It was your news to tell, not his and you have every right to be disappointed that he spilled the beans. When I got engaged, I called my godmother to tell her and she already knew because my friend (who is also her niece) called her. I was upset because it wasn’t her news to tell. She thought she was justified in telling her because she spoke to my godmother more often. Her intentions weren’t to hurt me, but it still wasn’t okay and I let her know how it made me feel.

          1. The Grey Lady*

            Yep, happened to me too. My sister-in-law overheard me when my husband (then fiance’) and I were talking and finally settled on a wedding date. So she blabbed to the whole family before we even got the invitations out. Next thing I know, I’m getting angry calls from family members asking why THEY weren’t the first ones to know directly from us. It was because we hadn’t told anyone yet!

    5. Amy*

      The boss shouldn’t have told but I’ve found in my workplace, many people start telling colleagues after 12 weeks.

      By 15, it’s not uncommon to be showing.

      1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

        I’m at showing, but I am working from home so no one can tell! One of the many benefits of working from home during pregnancy (others include lunchtime naps and being able to throw up in my own toilet).

        1. Amy*

          You have my sympathies… I think all my colleagues knew I was pregnant by 8 weeks both times. My face was always tinged with green and I’d thrown up in the break room more times than I could count.

          Doing it at home sounds far more pleasant. (Though still unpleasant)

        2. blackcat*

          I was (thankfully) almost exclusively able to work from home during my first trimester. I had HG and was puking 10-15x per day, though that dropped to like 5x per day with proper medication.
          If I had been working in person, there would have been zero hiding it. I did tell my boss at the time at 5 weeks (crazy early) because I was so sick.
          I had to be on site once around 9 weeks, and it was so rough! Everyone asked me if I was okay and I sort of brushed it off with “medical stuff, doctors are doing their best” But I 100% understood their concern. The massive weight loss (15lbs at that point, and I was only 120 to begin with, I bottomed out at 98lbs at 12 weeks) was what scared people, though, since I managed to keep it to just one puke at the office. A coworker later told me sure was sure I was dying of cancer :/
          I don’t think I would have been able to work at all if I had to go in before getting medicated (around 8 weeks).

        3. Risha*

          I’m 9 weeks pregnant with my first and I’ve been thinking for weeks that I have no idea how people who actually need to be in an office do it. The constant bathroom trips alone would have been a pain, never mind my near-daily lunch or afternoon nap for the last month.

          1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

            @Risha It’s gets better…I promise! 17 weeks today and I feel like I’ve finally turned a corner. I highly recommend talking to your doctor about meds, I waited way too long thinking that meds weren’t good for the baby. Then I realized, you know what’s really bad for baby? Not keeping food down for 12 weeks…!

            Congratulations and best of luck to you!!!

            1. blackcat*

              Yes, meds help a ton! I highly recommend making sure your OB/midwife takes a sensible approach to meds in pregnancy. Some land on the “If it’s not *proven safe for the fetus* you shouldn’t take it” rather than doing a broader cost-benefit analysis that includes the mother’s quality of life. I wish I had better advocated for myself since the weightloss I experienced during my pregnancy was really devastating to my body. I did eventually get medicated, but I really should have been on meds and/or taken myself to the ER earlier than I did. It was only around when my kid turned 2 that I finally could say my body (including muscle-mass) recovered from losing >10% of my body mass (I was thin to begin with).

            2. Risha*

              Thank you and to you as well!

              I’ve been a little overcautious about going with meds, but I’m definitely not against them. But actually these last couple of days I think I’ve finally turned the corner… I still don’t _want_ to eat anything, especially meat, but I mostly can and keep it down when I do. *crosses fingers*

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        So? That doesn’t matter. Some folks aren’t showing that early, and even if they are, it’s still their news to share when they’re ready. Some folks have good reason to wait, like those of us with recurrent pregnancy loss who want to wait until we’re fairly certain this one will make it.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      I would tend that way too (partly because not sure if would be legal to share that info here) but I think can take boss as well meaning but didn’t realise and slipped up.

    7. LSP*

      My first thought it that pregnancy, from the viewpoint of the workplace, is a medical condition, and should be assumed private information until any point that the pregnant person wants to share. She could keep it private entirely, with the exception of working out leave and coverage, and never tell a single coworker, even if her water breaks in the middle of a meeting.

      I know that in the real world, people tend to treat other people’s pregnancies like it’s news to be shared. OP’s boss certainly did not mean to cross any lines, but he most certainly did. If OP is not inclined to call him out, that’s her prerogative, but he shared personal medical information without the permission of the employee in question. Bad move.

      1. UShoe*

        I totally agree with this.

        The one thing I would add though – and I’m not saying this is a good thing, I think it’s a very bad thing – I think COVID has blurred a lot of people’s boundaries around “medical information do not share”.

        In my experience, quite sensitive things like mental health struggles, vulnerabilities and medical testing are being shared in groups or wide business meetings whereas pre-COVID they MIGHT be one-on-one with your manager material if you were confident in their approach.

        If people are regularly oversharing sensitive information in planning meetings it can normalise that sort of thing, even for people whose judgement you would trust in normal times.

        To reiterate, I think this is BAD and needs addressing, but it certainly appears to be a trend to me.

    8. Alice's Rabbit*

      You’d think so, but every time I have started to tell people about a pregnancy, some folks decide to go blabbering and spread the news themselves. It’s beyond frustrating. This last time, one sister was there when I told my parents. I specifically said we weren’t telling anyone else until the following week, when my husband’s family would be in town, so please keep quiet.
      Before I even got home, my sister had already told the rest of my siblings, and half the extended family, and couldn’t understand why I was upset at her. It’s my news to share, dang it, when and how I choose.
      When my second kid was born, I wasn’t even in the post-op room yet, and my dad had already posted on Facebook. I ordered him to take it down immediately once I found out. Again, he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thrilled by his wanting to share the news with the world. First off: my kid, so I decide when to announce what. Second: I had been in labor for more than two days, followed by emergency surgery. I needed a solid night’s sleep before we even contemplated posting about this, because any post would shortly be followed with dozens of congratulatory phone calls. I was not up for that until around noon the following day. That’s when we called the other close family members to tell them, and then posted the good news online.

  6. 1098, 1099. Whatever.*

    OP #2, In America, if you handle it correctly, Dependent Care Benefits are tax-free to your employees. They’re not uncommon and a wonderful benefit. Your accountant/tax pro should be familiar with this.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes but employees are still paying for the care, it’s just taken out of your check pre-tax. It sounds as if OP wants to provide additional money to those who have been affected by the situation – 2 different things here.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The company can also deposit funds into a tax-free dependent care benefits account.

      2. CAA*

        Employers can also contribute to a Dependent Care FSA. The max contribution is $5K per family, and it can be split any way they want between employee and employer. So the employer could fund 100% for everyone, and all employees can submit qualifying receipts and get reimbursed from the plan. There’s a “use it or lose it” rule for dependent care, so any funds left over at the end of the year revert back to the employer.

        The IRS has well-defined rules on what qualifies for reimbursement, so this could be a good way to administer the funds without getting into a lot of discussion over what’s not included or what’s fair to whom, and by following the existing approved rules, it saves them from worrying about discrimination.

        The main problem with using this mechanism is that if they already have a dependent care FSA plan, they aren’t allowed to change how it works in the middle of the plan year. If they don’t already have a plan, then setting one up now would mean that they will have this one benefit that’s not aligned with the plan year for all their other benefits which makes things pretty painful for accounting and tax purposes.

    2. Artemesia*

      I worked for a university that paid 70% of the tuition for employees for their children to go to college (100% to the state schools which had modest tuition costs). There was occasional grumbling by those who were hired after kids were grown or who didn’t have kids, but it was apparently legal. Initially it was 100% for faculty and 50% for staff. THAT apparently was not or became not legal, but once they made it equal for everyone it worked.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Why wouldn’t it be legal? That’s an incredibly common benefit for university employees.

  7. Hapax Legomenon*

    OP1, my director a few jobs ago had us play the points version of “Never Have I Ever” at a staff meeting as an icebreaker. It was tame, up until the director–who thought she was a “cool boss” when in fact she was neither cool nor a decent manager–said “Never have I ever…licked a bootyhole.” (Her exact words.) Our workplace was chill, but it was still NOT that kind of workplace, and I didn’t last long before moving on.

    1. JSPA*

      Beyond the shocking lack of boundaries (which, What?!?!)

      I’m secondarily slightly startled that anyone old enough to know that’s a thing, calls it a bootyhole.

      ♫ Riiiiich Paaaanoply of Liiiiiife ♫

    2. The Grey Lady*

      Oh god. That’s what I’m thinking is going to happen to OP1. It will start off tame and innocent, until someone decides to be cute by taking it up a notch. Or a few notches.

  8. Rez123*

    “there’s no way to offer this to anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it”
    I took this to mean that the childcare stipend would only be offered “at need” basis. All parents wouldn’t be eligible if they earn enough money or has a grandparent to look after the child.

  9. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

    I’m going anonymous here, but….for #2 I would absolutely be demoralized if my coworkers were getting a substantial sum from the organization solely because they had children.

    I would feel completely differently about this if it were a governmental benefit, where anyone declared an essential worker received $X / month during the pandemic for dependent care. That’s an appropriate response for societal level issues, and within the role of governmental policy.

    But my employer deciding to pay a coworker more not because of their performance, or their job role, or their experience, etc., but specifically due to them having additional expenses because they have a kid? That would bother me. I wouldn’t be upset with the coworker for taking it — times are tough — but it would send me the message that I am less valuable to the organization because I don’t have children.

    If your organization can’t afford a more across-the-board $X for pandemic-related expenses — and I in no way fault you for not being able to afford that — you’re prioritizing some people’s needs over others. Which is your right to do, but don’t be surprised if it leads to negative feelings among those whose needs you judge as less important. Not everyone has or is ever going to have kids. What they get paid by their employers shouldn’t depend on that.

    1. bananab*

      My wife and I take care of our parents and I can say 100% this would piss both of us off. Totally with you here. At a certain point employers have to be diplomatic on this parent stuff. Yes I get it’s not the same. But it will absolutely demoralize people of special handling only applies to parents.

      1. Esme*

        But there’s a very particular crisis for parents right now.

        I am not a parent and I can see that. I don’t know why others refuse to.

          1. LadyRegister*

            What the LW is proposing is the difference between remaining in the workforce or being forced to drop out. While parents aren’t winning the struggle Olympics (no one has a monopoly on suffering right now), the loss of working parents is a social crisis, not a personal responsibility consequence. There’s a false narrative that helping one person *takes* from others. In the short term, yes there may be a specific allocation of resources. But a rising tide lifts all boats. Investing in children is investing in future stable and educated citizens. Parents who can be more productive help the company as a whole.

            Countries that treat healthcare and education and dependent care as social goods tend to have healthier, happier, and more productive citizens.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — there is a social crisis for parents right now, and particularly for women, who are being disproportionately affected by this. A company that wants to help parents stay in the workforce is a good thing.

            2. Chinook*

              But you are assuming that those who take care of their parents aren’t also trying to decide if they can better afford to pay for homecare vs. quit work and do it themselves. The irony is that these people often have knowledge and experience that is more valuable than a parent with school kids due to the number of years they have worked, which could make them harder to replace.

              As well, some of this could include palliative care, which has a shorter timeline of cost but would definitely mean they would return with resentment if they saw childcare as reimbursable but not eldercare.

              1. Name Required*

                Children are completely unable to take care of themselves. There are some elders who need the same type of care as children, but not all elders require that same amount of care. Some elders have the financial means to contribute to their care, and many elders are active participants and decision-makers in their own care. Because they are still adults. There are no children who can participate in their own care at the same capacity as an independent adult. Some folks who are parents to school-age children are also responsive for their parents’ care.

          2. NoviceManagerGuy*

            I know several parents already who have quit their jobs because of the problem. Parents are really going through something more extreme than the vast majority of non-parents.

        1. Sylvan*

          Agreed. It doesn’t sound like parents are looking for or being given preferential, special treatment. They’re in a very difficult situation and they, like other caregivers, need accommodations to do their jobs.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Would it make a difference if they reimbursed first X of dependent care, which would also cover any additional help you may need for your parents?

    2. LizM*

      But given that a national response to the child care crisis is currently non-existent, wishing for it to exist doesn’t solve the immediate need being faced by a number of essential workers.

      This feels like complaining that a coworker gets paid parental leave when they have a new baby, or that my colleagues in a different city get a transit subsidy, that I can’t take advantage of because public transit in my area is so abysmal. Not everyone gets the same benefits because not everyone has the same life circumstances or needs the same things.

      Would you have the same objection if an employer contracted with a nanny service and paid the care providers directly? Or if an employer opened an on-site daycare and subsidized the cost?

      1. LizM*

        That said, I’m fully supportive of making it a dependent care stipend. Honestly, that stipend may be the difference for some parents and caregivers being able to stay in the workforce until schools reopen.

        1. Boo*

          And honestly, if one parent or caregiver ends up having to leave the workforce because of caring responsibilities, that is something that is going to disproportionately affect women.

      2. Esme*

        Lots of employers do provide childcare eg on-site.

        I’m surprised they haven’t all shut down due to the unfairness of being unable to bring elderly relatives there too…

        Everyone is also missing that issues with childcare are disproportionately affecting women and are undoing DECADES of progress. There’s been some research on this in the UK if anyone cares to look for it.

        1. I can only speak Japanese*

          That’s true. But eldercare is also affecting women more than men from what I see.

        2. RG2*

          In the US at least, onsite child care is very rare.

          And, with elderly relatives, there are usually services that cover this need, but those services are closed. Additionally, because elderly folks are SO vulnerable, normal options like rotating home health aides are very, very risky.

          Pointing out that this is a huge issue (that also disproportionately affects women!) doesn’t undermine the importance of childcare too. But I have a couple female friends who are making really tough decisions about potentially leaving the workforce because of parents who require care and all the affordable options are too risky from an exposure perspective.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        But the difference in your examples is that it’s offered to everyone, and only used by those who need it. You don’t know what financial strain this is putting on everyone, and just because someone doesn’t have kids, it wouldn’t be fair to exclude them from getting assistance.

      4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Not everyone gets the same benefits because not everyone has the same life circumstances or needs the same things. Would you have the same objection if an employer contracted with a nanny service and paid the care providers directly? Or if an employer opened an on-site daycare and subsidized the cost?

        But the ‘distribution’ of benefits across the workforce does seem quite inequitable as a whole (in the UK, where I am, at least) [without any specific reference to the OPs situation or the pandemic]. A lot oriented towards children and parenthood, but not all: Maternity and paternity leave. Private healthcare paid for by the company (we are lucky enough to have access to the NHS here and as a relatively healthy person I’ve never needed to “go private”, but presumably people who have more complex health needs benefit from the “non-underwritten” (i.e. not specifically assessed on the basis of one’s own individual health, but instead is a ‘group’ policy) nature of it).

        Paying towards “stop smoking” or “obesity/weight loss” programmes (I already don’t smoke and although I could lose a few pounds I’m not ‘fat’ as such … can I get the cash equivalent of the money the company would have paid out for those programmes? – thought not!)

        The list goes on…

        I haven’t done any research on this, but my gut feeling is there’s a 80/20 (or whatever similar proportion) relationship where 20% of the employees account for 80% of the financial value of benefits, taking everything into account.

        I’d be really interested if anyone here is a benefits specialist or similar and can confirm if it is the case?!

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Someone said below “tuition reimbursement” and that’s another good one… I already have a degree, and a Master’s, which I funded myself before joining the company, so an argument could be made to “should I be given the amount of fees the employer would have paid?” for example.

          What rankles particularly is when bonuses are offered for completion of education related to the role that I already had (for a comparable job role and salary level) because of the need to recognise people “bettering themselves” and motivate them to better themselves… I “bettered myself” (which I put in quite big quote marks) on my own time and dime, but I don’t see an alternative offered.

          1. TTDH*

            I’ve never worked somewhere that gave bonuses for completion of education so I can’t speak to whether there’s something else about it that is bothersome, but the way it’s written it sort of comes off like someone being upset they didn’t get maternity or bereavement leave when they could have used it but now they work somewhere that offers it and see other people receiving it. If you came in with the education, your employer will probably have based your compensation on it. Someone who came in without that education may be receiving the bonus because it’s an easier way to level pay a bit, especially if your employer doesn’t do review/raise cycles often.

        2. jenkins*

          (UK here also.) I’m no expert either but I would doubt it’s as stark as 80:20, to be honest. A lot of people are parents, that’s not a niche thing. Many people get health issues at some time or another. And even if it were 80:20, the idea isn’t to give everyone X amount of benefit just to be nice, it’s to alleviate various specific issues that otherwise cause big problems for employees and companies.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Would you feel differently if it was a stipend for people with dependents who needed care (not only including children)?

      1. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

        Honestly, it would be less bad, but it still wouldn’t sit well with me.

        There are so many reasons people have had their expenses go up due to this pandemic. People with caregiving duties are part of that, but again, far from the only ones. People whose partners/roommates/etc have lost their jobs (especially given that the extra $600 / week from unemployment is gone now), and who are now going to have to pick up the slack. People who have had to up their internet speed to handle the increased demands caused by working from home. People who have had to set up home offices, because their dining room chairs would cause unbearable strain if they were used for a full working day. People who are paying more in utilities because they’re home during the day now, and so needed the heating in March or the cooling in July that normally they wouldn’t. People who put off medical care that wasn’t life or death, but is now going to be more expensive to deal with because of the delay. etc. And that’s leaving aside the people whose incomes have gone down from this pandemic, even while still employed. Landlords who have tenants who aren’t paying rent right now. People who have lost work as independent contractors for a side hustle. And so on.

        I also admit that this ties in with larger perceptions of how parents are treated in a lot of workforces. I’ve had previous jobs where I was explicitly told that I was being moved to less desirable shifts because I didn’t have kids so I could work whenever. Even in my current role, I end up with coverage slots that no one wants, in part because people with children are given first priority for what coverage they are capable of filling. In the current pandemic, the workload in my department increased substantially for the first few months. Those with young children were understandably less productive during it, since keeping young children alive is not particularly compatible with other forms of work at the same time. But since the workload went up, and there was no additional hiring, and the productivity of those with young children went down….it meant that those without young children were expected to put in much longer hours, with no additional compensation, since the workload increase was just in the salaried roles.

        I’m just not comfortable with my employer giving money to people based on their perception of the employee’s need, rather than their perception of what they need to pay someone to do that job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There are lots of benefits that some people get that others don’t, simply because their situations are different — medical leave, parental leave, tuition reimbursement, on-site child care, etc.

          I don’t think it’s reasonable to complain about having to pick up the slack of parents whose kids’ schools closed while simultaneously complaining about a company trying to facilitate those parents’ ability to return to full-time work.

          1. Esme*

            Right? So many people want to complain about parents but not support them.

            I am not a parent and I despair of some people’s attitudes.

            1. Sharkie*

              Yeah. It’s exhausting honestly. I am also not a parent and I would never think this. I would be so glad that my teammates are supported, and there would be less chance of noisy zoom calls!

              sidenote- My parents to my grown siblings and I that they are thankful this didn’t happen when we were growing up because home schooling would last 10 mins before they would lose patience with us and ship the 2 ADHD kids to our grandma’s. I have so much respect for parents working at home and keeping kids alive with everything cancelled.

              1. Grapey*

                My mom dropped out of the workforce in the 80’s to raise me – these social systems haven’t EVER worked for poor working mothers. White male corporate America basically said and still says “Ok wimmins, you can have your jobs as long as you don’t need us to lift a finger.”

                As a kid in poverty [since mom left her job], other people’s taxes took excellent care of me through Head Start, WIC etc and I love paying it back as a successful adult……but seeing my mom giving up a career over childcare made me swear off kids at a very young age. I mentor girls and I’m seeing MANY of them come to the same conclusion nowadays, especially considering they know they’ll probably have elder care and a husband that doesn’t feel any of this pressure.

            2. jenkins*

              Yes! Just – how *do* people want this to work? Childcare, or caring for other dependents, takes hours of labour. If you’ve lost your usual arrangement for getting the care done, something has to give somewhere. You can’t fit very many hours around a full time workload. You can’t magic extra hours into the day. You can’t magic enough extra funds out of the average household budget to pay someone to do all those hours (and yes, care costs are far more expensive than faster internet or a new chair, much of which carers have also had to pay for during the pandemic). The possible answers are that we help people to cover the costs, we cover work for those people while they carry out the care themselves, or we just don’t bother looking after our dependents any more.

              There is no option where people who have dependents can perform at exactly the same level as people who don’t, with no adjustments or help. It’s not about who’s worth more, it’s basic maths.

            3. Slinky*

              100% agree, Esme. I’m not a parent, either. I’m getting so tired of hearing people complaining about parents having to parent while schools are closed. Kids are humans who need care and attention. A lot of it. Nothing about the current situation is ideal and we’re all making do as best we can. If parents need someone to pick up the slack for now, then it is what it is. If a company like OP’s can help, great! This is such a thoughtful and generous thing they’re hoping to offer.

              People often misunderstand the concept of “fairness.” Fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same. It’s not like the parents would be pocketing this money. They’re using it for a necessary and unforeseen expense needed to do their jobs.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                People often misunderstand the concept of “fairness.” Fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same. It’s not like the parents would be pocketing this money. They’re using it for a necessary and unforeseen expense needed to do their jobs.

                Exactly. E.g., I never worked at a place that offered daycare reimbursement while my kids were in actual daycare. Doesn’t mean I can retroactively ask my current employer for it in the spirit of fairness, when my kids are in their mid-20s; or demand that no one gets it if I cannot.

                1. The Rural Juror*

                  Ooooooh, you both hit the nail right on the head! I had an older coworker complain and complain and complain about a male coworker getting parental leave when his child was born. Her reasoning was “I didn’t get maternity leave when I had my kids, I just had to bring them to work with me!” Um…that in and of itself is a privilege! 20 years ago when she was having kids she was one of three employees of this company and was able to set up a crib in her office! Imagine how many people would get to do that today!!! None! And she was annoyed by a coworker getting to take some time with his wife and their new baby? SHEESH!!! Some people just like to complain, unfortunately.

                1. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Yes! Not everyone’s needs are the same during this crisis. And childcare is a need, not a frivolity. Responsible childcare that furthers education, not just someone who slaps on a movie and keeps the kids from dying. Kids have been out of school for 5 months already. They need to be learning!

            4. violet04*

              Agree. I am child free by choice. I feel awful for parents who have to navigate child care while trying to work full time. I have no problem with them getting an extra stipend to use towards child care. If schools are not open in the fall then they probably need some extra money towards some kind of day care or a nanny.

              And management is going to expect everyone to perform at the same level while trying to figure out how to manage online schooling for the first time ever.

              This whole situation sucks and I’m glad there are companies who are trying to help parents.

            5. Akcipitrokulo*

              Yep. I am a parent but other half is SAHD – so I would not, nor would want to, want to benefit from help with chhildcare costs. I would fully support any other employee who needed help paying for child/dependent care to get that.

              1. Also Anon*

                In general, though, people don’t get benefits for individual extraordinary situations that cause people to drop out of the workforce. Just because an extraordinary situation is suddenly widespread doesn’t make it more deserving.

                In my case, the other half is a stay-at-home dad as well, but only because one of us had to drop out of the workforce because of our daughter’s overwhelming medical needs (that she was born with, many years pre-COVID). I think it’s fair to say that few of the people supporting widespread benefits for parents during this widespread situation were arguing that employers need to offer specific benefits for individual extraordinary situations like ours pre-COVID. And once the general situation resolves, we’ll still be taking the hit from being a one-income family while not having gotten any extra help during COVID because dad is home.

                It’s not at all fair to offer this support during COVID and then yank it away for people who have comparable situations once COVID goes away. If you want to offer this benefit, it needs to be permanent.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  What’s happening now will cause massive numbers of parents, mostly women, to have to leave the workforce. There’s nothing wrong with temporary help during a temporary national crisis to mitigate that. It does not need to be permanent.

                2. TTDH*

                  “Fair” is very subjective. It’s not necessarily equal but it is equitable. It really sucks that your other half had to leave the workforce, but an employer can’t do anything about that now because it has already happened. Why not support this temporary benefit and also still advocate for stronger permanent benefits?

            6. EventPlannerGal*

              I’m not a parent either and really, the only response I can muster to some of this stuff it “get a grip”. My colleagues with kids are dealing with a totally, totally different scenario than I am and I cannot imagine the pettiness of wanting to refuse them support because it’s ~unfair that my office isn’t covering my heating bill.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            +1000. I would add bereavement leave to the list, simply to better get the message across. How is it fair that my coworker gets 3-5 (depending on the company) extra paid days off, and I have to stay at work and cover for them, just because their loved one has died? huh? /s

            My children are grown and out of the house, and I break out in hives when I try to imagine myself having to work full-time, take care of my kids full-time (without any options of playdates, sleepovers, sending them to play outside with their friends, etc available to me) and homeschool them full-time on top of that, because schools are (for a very good reason) closed. I am having it extremely easy in this pandemic compared to my colleagues who have young children. The OP is offering to make one of the facets of these parents’ new and unplanned workload – the homeschooling – easier available, so they’d have more energy and time for the actual full-time work. Good on them.

          3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            But the difference is that those benefits are available to everyone, and only used by those who need them. My issue with this scenario is that it would only be offered to those with kids. Others are experiencing financial hardships because of this pandemic, not just those with young kids. To me it’s no different than a manager who lets their employees with kids off the hook for being late or wanting to leave early because kids, but gives their childless employees a hard time or writes them up because they missed their alarm or got stuck in traffic.

            1. Anononon*

              This benefit is also available to everyone to – it just that, to need it, you also need to have children (and/or dependents) and need help providing for their care due to COVID closures.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              But they are not “wanting to leave early because kids”. They are suddenly in a position, through no fault of their own, where, in addition to working full-time and providing childcare full-time, they now also have to be homeschooling their children full-time, because schools are closed. And if they screw up the homeschooling somehow? that’ll come back to bite their kids when the time comes to take their SATs and apply to colleges. But no pressure, it’s all good, no big deal to them that they have school-age kids in a pandemic!

              I am a parent of two adult children who are out of the house. My biggest Covid-related hardship so far is I cannot meet with my friends at a bar. I would have no problems whatsoever with my coworkers who are in a ridiculously difficult situation *that I am not in*, getting help that is specifically targeted to that situation (money to pay for e-learning). As someone else mentioned downthread, the money can come in the form of an e-learning reimbursement, if that makes everyone feel better.

              I get it that in some cases here we are looking at accumulated years of resentment for legit preferential treatment of employees that are parents at some workplaces *in the past*, but this is a one in a 100 years situation that none of us ever wished to be in. Can we have some empathy please.

            3. blackcat*

              Alison’s explicit recommendation though was to make it a broader caregiving credit.

              I mentioned upthread that I know folks now paying out the nose for in-home care of elderly relatives that they pulled out of nursing home. Nursing home care was covered under Medicare/Medicaid, but home care is not. So it’s a HUGE out of pocket expense.

              If there’s a childcare credit, there should also be a credit for those folks. I say this as someone who spent months paying *both* regular daycare costs (for a closed daycare) and $20/hr for 20hrs/week for a nanny for months.

            4. Altair*

              “To me it’s no different than a manager who lets their employees with kids off the hook for being late or wanting to leave early because kids,”

              Just because a neural net might confuse a llama and an emu doesn’t mean there’s no difference. Helping people who have an increased burden which affects their ability to work, be it childcare or elder care, is not at all the same as deciding that one reason for being late is acceptable but another is not.

            5. Taniwha Girl*

              I don’t see anyone arguing that parents should have flexibility but others should not.

              However parents and other caregivers are experiencing a unique hardship with no help from the government or anyone else in society. Why is it OK to help no one, because we cannot help everyone?

          4. Call it what it is*

            Those are all benefits that will stay in place after Covid, they are all perks to working at the company.
            Which means you have the potential to use them at some point as does anyone else taking a job there. Giving relief just for Covid, and just for people with kids when there are so many people struggling due to Covid isn’t right. There are not limitations around tuition reimbursement that only people with a 2 year old can use it, it is for people who are going to college to further their career (hopefully at the company). Its a good idea but offering it just for Covid to only relieve parents isn’t right.

            Covid issuses from my group at work:
            Me- we have 2 kids under 5, and my sisters 2 kids under 8, and my parents our house is exploding and the limitations on food at the grocery make it hard to feed 8.
            co-worker 1 – single mom of 2
            co-worker 2- SO lost their job during Covid the unemployment they were not able to get to process for 6 weeks. They still have not received back pay.
            co-worker 3- SO is an Nurse, living in their garage so their kids don’t get it.
            co-worker 4 – they are good no kids, both Work at home.

            1. jenkins*

              There are tons and tons of issues around Covid, but not all of them are financially-crippling, someone-is-going-to-have-to-quit-their-job-because-they-earn-less-than-the-cost-of-childcare issues. This isn’t just free money for parents to cheer them up because we think Covid sucks more for them than for anyone else. It’s funding for a very specific purpose, to alleviate a huge additional cost that is incurred because Covid has shut public schools. In your example, I can see that coworker 2 is also going to be struggling enormously for money, and I would love to see companies offer a general hardship fund for circumstances like that. But at heart the LW’s situation is mostly about ensuring that employees of the company can continue to show up to work.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author


                I am astonished that at this moment of crisis, with parents struggling to stay in the workforce at all, a company trying to help them is stirring up this amount of self-interested opposition (and realize that the OP reading these comments is probably becoming less likely to help their employees, not more likely). It’s deeply disappointing.

                1. Alanna*

                  The most depressing thing I’ve seen on Twitter lately was a woman asking for advice on how she and others could be most helpful for friends with kids right now. The replies immediately filled up with vitriol at the very idea of helping parents. It was honestly horrifying — I’m a woman in her 30s without kids, I’m aware that nonparents sometimes get a raw deal at work, but in this moment, “WhY HAvE KiDs If YoU DidNT wAnT to CARe foR TheM” is just breathtakingly tone-deaf and cruel — as if anyone could have anticipated this

                2. Name Required*

                  I’m also deeply disappointed, but not surprised. There is a very local minority who brigades every parent-adjacent post you make — maternity leave, flexible scheduling, you name it and there they are, complaining.

                  OP, please do not let this comments discourage you from offering something that could make the difference between whether the parents at your company can remain in the workforce. I don’t understand what these folks think the world will look like when 40% of the workforce drops out because children can’t care for themselves or school themselves, but I’m willing to bet they won’t be happy about that either.

                3. Turanga Leela*

                  Thanks, Alison. I’m in the best possible situation for a parent—I’m in a three-generation household and all the adults here can work from home. We can make this work, basically. It’s still the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I literally don’t know how we would function if we were being told we had to go back to the office. One of us would have to quit, which I think would mean we’d lose our house.

                  A thing that was jarring when I had my kid was realizing how totally inflexible parenting is compared to everything else. Even at the best of times, childcare in our house is always a delicate balance of people’s schedules. We’re constantly checking in with each other. “I have a late meeting Thursday—can you pick up the kid?” “Yes, and remember I’ll be at a conference next week, so I won’t be able to take him to school or the doctor.” You can’t just leave the kid home alone or not pick him up. There always has to be an adult on call. It’s qualitatively different than pet care or other social responsibilities. (And I’m not knocking those, and I realize that caring for disabled adults can be basically the same thing as child care, and I’m not saying parents are more valuable… all the caveats.)

                4. justabot*

                  Well regarding that twitter post, it was worded in a way that implied that childless people had time on their hands to help parents, and that’s what prompted a lot of the vitriol. People missed that the person who wrote the post was in fact the childless person asking how she could be helpful to friends with children. However, it came off like it was written by a parent saying that childless people had time on their hands, therefore they should be helping parents out.

                  But there seems to be this thing happening right now where parents understandably frustrated and/or overwhelmed voice it, and unprompted, drag childless people into it and how easy they must have it. The deputy editor of InStyle did the same thing on twitter, someone in a public position to know better, and it was gross. It’s tone deaf, insensitive, and minimizes the pressures and struggles of people without children.

                  So I think sometimes that’s where the backlash is coming from – not that parents aren’t in need of help and support. It’s weird when a childless person is feeling empathy for them – only to, unprovoked, suddenly be brought into the conversation as being supposedly privileged and carefree. With absolutely no idea of the issues they might be facing, that are equally as hard, just different. But anyways, I think that’s where some of the backlash is coming from. (And that’s what happened with that twitter post.)

          5. AnotherSarah*

            Yes! I’ve had coworkers who take a work-related class, and get to do some work for that class on work time, and get reimbursed. I can’t take the same class–it conflicts with responsibilities I have at home. Is that unfair? I wouldn’t say so. I don’t understand the antipathy here (and I don’t have kids right now or other caregiving responsibilities, and the pandemic has negatively impacted my finances).

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I guess my read on the OP’s question is that the stipend would be meant to amiliorate the situation you’re describing in your second paragraph, whereas some of the other examples you describe (losing out on a second job, for example) are unlikely to meaningfully impact the workload of OP’s employees.

          I do agree that there’s a fundamental unfairness to some of these benefits, but I struggle to think about how fairness could be reasonably accomodated — it seems like when that’s the primary goal then everything just moves to the lowest common denominator.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            I also want to clarify that I really agree with your last sentence: “I’m just not comfortable with my employer giving money to people based on their perception of the employee’s need, rather than their perception of what they need to pay someone to do that job.”

            But I feel that where this differs is that this would be a benefit, not part of salary, and benefits often are related to need.

          2. Luke G*

            Agreed- the stipend is useful not only to the parents by helping them get childcare, but useful organization-wide by giving the parents back their ability to focus on the job during work hours instead of on managing the kids.

            What I would hope to see, though, is that as the organization gives this money to parents for childcare, that they also work to re-calibrate expectations back towards the pre-COVID standard of “you need to have childcare if you’re working from home, you can’t do your job AND care for a kid.” I can see myself starting to get resentful if the parents got extra money for child care, but were still given a pass on lower productivity that left me working extra hours picking up their slack.

            1. Just a PM*

              Luke G — you’ve totally hit the nail on the head. There has to be some kind of expected result from the stipend for it to be fair for all employees, especially ones who aren’t getting it, and the only way to do that is to see some kind of measurable increase in the parent’s productivity. The stipend shouldn’t be tied to the parent’s performance but there should be an expectation that if there’s no change in productivity, then another discussion may be necessary (obviously with the caveat that things happen).

        3. valentine*

          I would absolutely be demoralized if my coworkers were getting a substantial sum from the organization solely because they had children.
          This isn’t like sticking you with unpalatable shifts or allowing parents not to work overtime, regardless of whether they spend that free time with their children.

          those without young children were expected to put in much longer hours, with no additional compensation, since the workload increase was just in the salaried roles.
          Here’s your trouble. What if you set boundaries on your hours and the length of time you’re willing to work much longer hours for the same pay? Would your colleagues join you in pushing back on this? And there are companies where this doesn’t happen. Maybe looking for one is worth it, even now.

        4. Sharkie*

          I understand where you are coming from, but you can’t have it both ways. You complain that you have had to pick up the slack without compensation because parents are being less productive, yet you say it would be unfair for your company to provide a benefit to allow parents to be more productive and your workload to be more manageable? That makes little sense.

          Also how is this different than tuition reimbursement, 401 k match , health care, maternity/ paternity leave, Family leave, bereavement leave, cell phone reimbursement or conferences?

          1. Esme*

            This is what people seemingly refuse to understand, that helping parents helps their colleagues too.

            1. Mor*

              How does it help the colleagues when the parents now can better pay for e-learning? The parents are still suck at home taking care of the children and the other co-workers still have to do the extra work.

              They should give a stipend for those that need it and hire people to take on the extra work.

              1. Boo*

                Because in this particular situation, where the majority of people are working on-site (not at home), the parents will now be better able to afford to send their kids to “essential worker childcare options open that help with e-learning”. So the kids would be looked after, allowing the parents to come in to work – which very much helps their colleagues.

                If parents are not able to afford these essential worker childcare options, then they will either work from home if possible *while* doing childcare, or they’ll end up dropping out of the workforce until schools re-open. Which, as mentioned several times, is something that is already happening, and is disproportionately happening to women.

                1. Mor*

                  That’s not in the letter.
                  The letter only asks whether the company can and should help with off-setting e-learning. So it’s actually entirely possible that the parents are working their standard schedules on-site and the coworkers aren’t affected at all.
                  It’s also possible that the parents are at home and e-learning is breaking the bank. Then helping with the e-learning cost won’t help getting them back to work either, because they’ll just end at zero and the in-person childcare would break the bank.

                2. Willis*

                  It is in the letter! OP is suggesting helping with the costs of childcare options open to essential workers where kids would participate in e-learning as they would were they home with their parents. It’s a stipend to cover the cost of going to the childcare, not to pay for access to e-learning (which would presumably be available through a public school).

                  It would make sense for the OP to do this as a childcare (or childcare/elder/dependent care) reimbursement up to $X amount. So it’s not just money to any parent, it’s a benefit people can access related to some parameters.

                3. lightning*

                  To Mor (can’t nest more): That is explicitly in the letter. “There are essential worker childcare options open that help with e-learning, but the added expense must be breaking some people’s budgets!”
                  My daycare (which has been open for essential workers the whole time) offers this. You can send your school aged kid and they supervise their e-learning.

                4. EventPlannerGal*

                  @Mor – it literally is in the letter! It’s right there! Do you not think it’s a little silly to argue like this over a letter you clearly haven’t read properly?

              2. jenkins*

                The letter did specify putting the kids into childcare services that facilitate e-learning – not paying for e-learning at home.

            2. Carbondale*

              Nobody is “refusing” to understand this. People are bringing up additional considerations. thats not the same thing as “refusing” to understand

          2. Infertile and Sad*

            It’s different from most of those in that the majority are available to anyone, whereas this is only available to parents.

            Not all of us can become parents. And for those us us who cannot, being told we are worth less because of it makes us feel, well, worthless!

            1. jenkins*

              But you’re not worth less. It’s not a well-done-for-procreating bonus. It’s a very specific benefit to help with a very specific situation that is hitting a subset of employees and affecting their ability to work.

            2. Jennifer*

              Sigh. It’s not about you or me or any other person that doesn’t have kids. It’s about helping people who are in need right now. My old company had a fund set up for employees who experienced natural disasters. Should I have been jealous of the “bonus” they received after hurricanes? Instead I chose to be grateful for what I had.

              1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                Yes sigh…the hurricane benefit you describe was available to everyone correct? That’s the difference here.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Sigh…It was available to people who had their home destroyed during a hurricane. So not everyone. Just people in a very specific situation. Childless people complaining about not receiving a childcare stipend are being as ridiculous as someone complaining that they didn’t receive a disaster relief check even though they didn’t live anywhere near the hurricane and their home is still standing. That’s my point.

                2. jenkins*

                  Yes, and if you proceeded to become responsible for a child through whatever means, you too would be eligible for this benefit. Just as if you lost your home in a hurricane, you too would have become eligible for the benefit Jennifer describes. If you aren’t being hit with childcare costs out of nowhere, or you haven’t lost your home in a hurricane, you’re not eligible. I don’t understand what you think the difference is here. No one has sat down, split the company into parents and non-parents and thought, ‘Ah, group A are a much lovelier and more deserving bunch, they should get some free money!’ It’s a specific idea to help with a specific, huge, sudden burden. If other people are facing *equally* huge and sudden burdens then of course there’s a strong argument for helping them, too.

                3. Joielle*

                  Jennifer – But I think the point is that it was available to everyone going through a large-scale disaster – which, to analogize to COVID, is all of us right now. Some people have more expenses related to COVID, just like with the hurricane. Some people have none (like me right now, still working and having no dependents, or like someone in your office whose home wasn’t affected by the hurricane). But people without kids could still get help with their specific expenses – your company didn’t decide that only kid-related expenses would be reimbursed.

                  Personally, I’m not opposed to caregivers getting a stipend in this situation, but your analogy doesn’t really hold up.

                4. Jennifer*

                  Joielle – We are all going through a disaster right now but some of us are relatively unaffected financially and others are. Just like after a hurricane, there are some people who are relatively unaffected financially and others who lose everything. It makes no sense to just hand out checks for the same amount to everyone without assessing who has more of a need.

                  I’m sure everyone that survives something like that would like a check to get mental health treatment or just to take themselves on a nice vacation and decompress but the company was more focused on who’d lost the most financially.

                5. jenkins*

                  Joielle – this really depends on whether you think the hurricane is Covid or unexpected childcare costs.

                6. Homes*

                  Yes – I have lived through (many) tropical storms and hurricanes and am fortunate to work at a company that has enough resources to offer assistance (both monetary and physical labor) to those harmed. Even though I experienced the hurricanes and sometimes even lost power long enough to toss the contents of my fridge and spend several hot sleepless nights cursing my decision to live in the South, I didn’t get any assistance. My colleagues whose roofs blew off or were flooded with inches or feet of water? They did. So no, even though we all experienced the hurricane, the hurricane benefit was NOT available to everyone. Same scenario here – we are all being affected by the pandemic, but not all equally. And giving a stipend (or reimbursement – does that sound better?) to folks who can demonstrate that their dependent care costs have increased because of the lack of in-person school or the shutdown of state-run elder care facilities is entirely reasonable. My loss of food due to hurricane power outages certainly affected me financially – but it didn’t make the difference between being able to come in to work or not. My colleagues without inhabitable houses? By quickly deploying grants and loans and even physical assistance to help with the demo, the company assured they were back at work (and able to focus on work), much more quickly than people who had to do all the demo themselves while spending countless hours fighting with FEMA.

                7. Joielle*

                  Jennifer – I think you’re sort of making my point? Or maybe we’re making the same point. I completely agree that it doesn’t make sense to hand out checks to everyone regardless of need. I’m just saying that some people with kids and some people without kids have needs (and some in each category don’t) – same as with a natural disaster. People who don’t need money shouldn’t get it, but that doesn’t neatly fall into “has kids” and “doesn’t have kids” categories, it falls into “is affected by the disaster” and “isn’t affected by the disaster” categories. Which is exactly what your company did with the hurricane aid, which I think is great!

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Maternity leave is also only available to people with children. It’s not about being worth less; it’s a deliberate choice to take it that way if you do.

              If you become responsible for a dependent, this benefit would be available to you too.

              This is a company trying to help people stay employed.

            4. logicbutton*

              Remember that this is not part of the normal, foreseeable cost of having a child. The LW is proposing to defray an *extra* cost being incurred by people who would otherwise just be sending their kids to school during the day, and who are now possibly facing financial devastation as a result of not having factored the government being a useless flaming mountain of garbage into their reproductive decisions. A childcare stipend would just be to let them break even.

              1. Eirene*

                I think “defray” is the best choice of words here. Ehat parent or caregiver is going to wind up making a profit off some extra help provided by their company? Good lord. People are acting like it’s a free all-inclusive trip to Vegas, not a strategy to both help people who really need it in a stressful time none of us were prepared for and to retain employees who might need to quit otherwise.

              2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                Removed. I will not host “parents should have planned for this crisis that no one else, including our government, planned for” comments here. – Alison

            5. TTDH*

              I’m sorry, but if you’re reading an employer paying a stipend for use on childcare that will help your co-workers be more productive and help you be less likely to have to pick up their slack as being told you are “worth less”, you really need to try and separate your feelings of frustration over your own difficult journey from the situation. They are valid feelings to have, but they’re blinding you to how a stipend can actually benefit all employees even if not all of them are in a situation to use it.

            6. Taniwha Girl*

              Is this how you would want to be treated if you had kids? “Work and watch your kids at the same time, if you want someone else to watch your kids better pay for it, why are you complaining so much, why do you think you deserve extra treatment, suck it up.” This is what we are telling parents right now.

        5. Caroline Bowman*

          But if your company gave something towards childcare, it might increase the parental productivity, right?

          I would expand it to include ”people with dependents who have increased costs due to pandemic closures” and then I would give a couple of examples of what that might mean (parents with young children, people caring for elder or disabled relatives and so on), and then I would create a very simple, non-invasive or complicated way to make it somewhat discretionary and to take the cases as they come. I would also NOT claim to pay ALL of any extra costs, it would be more ”a contribution in recognition of”. It might not be perfect, but it would be more inclusive and oriented to those who have additional financial commitments because of the pandemic, not to cover job losses suffered by partners. It’s to help this specific company’s staff cope with their own additional complicated responsibilities.

        6. SINK*

          I agree with you Anonymous. I like my company’s approach: you can apply for help with any hardship through the foundation set up to help employees through difficult times. Whether that’s caused by wildfires, COVID, whatever. It’s available to everyone.

          1. Staying In*

            I agree with Anonymous Curmudgeon too – and your companies approach is great! I see many parents doing just fine and non-parents not. Everyone has their struggles and letting employees come forward and receive help by need is great!

          2. Jennifer*

            They may already have a fund set up to help employees experiencing hardship. Many companies do. This is to address a specific problem.

            1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

              All problems that cause hardship in some way are specific problems, but okay.

              1. Jennifer*

                Again that makes no sense. Every problem that causes hardship doesn’t necessarily affect someone’s ability to work significantly. Everyone is sad or stressed right now. Everyone is struggling. Some people just have a greater financial need than others. I don’t get what the problem is.

                1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

                  You can’t really determine who has a greater financial need, that’s the problem. You’re assuming that people with kids have the greater financial need, but that isn’t always true. Plenty of people without kids are struggling a lot. And there are people with kids who are doing just fine. You think this is a black and white, open and shut issue with no gray area at all, and that’s just false.

                2. Jennifer*

                  I don’t think it’s an open and shut black and white issue. I get that it’s complicated. But helping caregivers seems to be the most pressing issue this particular company is facing right now.

                3. jenkins*

                  And it’s not just financial need in general, which lots of people are experiencing. It’s the inescapable need for SOMEONE to be there, with the dependent, looking after them. Meaning that if the cost of care is too high, the carer will be forced out of work to do it themselves (and would they even be eligible for unemployment in that case? I’m no expert on how things work in the US). Women in particular – we all know it’s mostly women – will be shoved out of the workplace to do labour that was tax-funded right up until a few months ago when the service was provided by public schools. This isn’t the same kind of Covid impact that everyone is vulnerable to, this is specific and targeted. It should be government funded. It’s not. If LW wants to fill that gap then good on her.

        7. Lucy*

          You know that working parents are no less likely to face those pressures detailed in your second paragraph, right?

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I was wondering if I was alone in this thinking. They have a child, maybe a sick child, are trying to work, are paying more for utilities and some basic necessities (I have never gone through kleenex, hand soap and toilet paper so quickly!), maybe have a spouse/partner WHATEVER who got a salary reduction but still works FT, or has a spouse/partner who is working in the COVID ward at the hospital and hasn’t been home for months because of limiting exposure and long work weeks. We all have the same baseline hardships and parents have to home school ON TOP OF THAT. I am a non-parent and even I can see the importance of not putting someone already in a hard situation out of work with no health benefits.

        8. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

          Do remember that parents can also have every single one of those issues you just listed: Parents whose partner has lost their job. Parents with bad internet. Parents paying for new expensive office chairs. Parents paying more in utilities. Parents with medical issues. Parents with lowered income. These problems are by no means unique to the childless.

          They just also have some number of small, expensive, needy humans utterly dependent on them for safety and care.

          1. jules*

            I recently spent a few days hospitalized for psychiatric treatment, likely related to the stress of the pandemic. Childcare costs are through the roof in our area, and with the hospital bills, there was just no way. My husband’s company did allow him to take some unpaid hours off to care for our toddler and he did what he could while she slept. He works for an essential business thats doing well and they probably would have come out ahead if he’d had a childcare stipend instead of having to sacrifice productivity, and who knows, I might have been back to myself faster if I’d known things were settled.

            Caregiver benefits are more of an investment in your company than a gift to employees.

        9. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          I don’t have children myself, but I’ll say that any benefit that helps to level the playing field in terms of work productivity is something that’s beneficial to non-parents (and other people without dependents). With better child/elder care access, it becomes a lot less justifiable to expect people without dependents to take on more than their fair share.

          You’re right in that benefits to parents don’t do anything about the extra operating costs that everyone has to take on due to WFH, but the point is that many of the costs that are leftover are one’s that virtually everyone is facing.

    4. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      What about looking at it from the perspective of an employee who is getting tuition reimbursement? That’s sometimes a fair amount of extra money, just because they are in a specific circumstance as well and in many industries, an individual’s degree isn’t even related to their field, so it’s not necessarily giving them a work boost.

      1. Tsp*

        I was thinking this too. But I think the reality to tuition reimbursement plans is that they are meant to attract people with post-secondary education of any kind. Businesses want people with this sort of education so they are willing to offer incentives for those people to apply.

        If we applied that reasoning here, it would mean that OPs business is trying to incentivize maintaining parents. That’s a business decision that, according to Alison, they are legally allowed to make. But I think it would be wise to expand that incentive to any dependent care.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        I dislike tuition reinbursement with a passion, precisely for the reasons you mention. If the degree is being requested by the company, sure, reimburse away. If it’s a drgree that can demonstrably benefit a team, I’m ok with negotiating for getting some of the cost back. But otherwise? Yes, I think it’s unfair to give out a lot of money to someone based on their circunstances and not their performance.

        I understand times are different now, and some people need more. But I’d be very demoralized too if extra help focused on child care. I’d like it a little more if it was dependent care regardless of age, but for me the best option would be to set up a fund that those with additional COVID-related expenses can apply too.

        1. doreen*

          But you know, it’s kind of impossible to offer benefits that everyone will use. You don’t like tuition reimbursement because not everyone will take advantage of it – even though they could if they chose to. My husband’s company offers health insurance, but a number of the employees don’t take it because their spouses have better coverage- should the company no longer offer it? My daughter works for a university that offers free tuition- should they eliminate it becasue not everyone uses it? The list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what benefit an employer offers – there will always be people who don’t use it. I mean when it comes right down to it, people where I work are always reaching the cap and losing vacation time- should my employer provide fewer weeks because so many people don’t use all of it by their own choice? ( we get 5 weeks vacation, a week of personal leave, 12 holiday , separate sick leave and comp time for hours worked between 37.5 and 40. And it’s not difficult to get time off approved- when people lose leave, it isn’t anyone else’s fault)

        2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          At most places I’ve worked, tuition reimbursement was only available for a credential that one could make a case for being a value-add to one’s work, or something that would equip them to advance in the organization (we had return-0f-service requirements). There was an expectation that your fancy new education would up your game at work – no one was getting free money for underwater basketweaving.

      3. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

        Things like tuition reimbursement — even things like onsite subsidized childcare, or parental leave — are part of a benefits package to attract employees. Even if you’re not benefiting from them, you know up front that they exist (and, yes, that salaries could be higher if they weren’t provided).

        This is something that’s being introduced afterwards, and is very much a case of “we the employer judge this one particular expense during the pandemic as more important than any other”. That’s what’s making it land so differently for me.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Nearly every benefit is set up after at least some employees are already at the company.

          1. Willis*

            No kidding! Not wanting an employer to set up a benefit in response to a new (or newly recognized) need is a great way to have crappy benefits. Companies can add new benefits, and employees who think they’re a waste of money or should be spent on salaries instead can reevaluate if they want to work there, just like they would’ve evaluated it if they knew it up front, I guess.

          2. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

            Yes, but this sounds like they want to make it a temporary benefit, not a new ongoing one.

        2. jenkins*

          It’s one of the biggest expenses by far, though. Care costs a lot, whether it’s for children or adults. A lot a lot. Hours and hours of someone’s time every day. Conceivably it can equal or even exceed the parent’s wage, at which point working becomes unfeasible and you lose employees. I personally would love it if companies covered every extra expense people incurred due to the pandemic! But you can’t compare the cost of a new chair to the cost of dependent care. It’s not so much comparing apples and oranges as apples and ten ton trucks.

        3. Cat*

          But it means the employer is going to be able to retain employees and/or get better work out of them. The LW might have framed it as selfless but it’s very much a benefit to the business.

          1. Ann Perkins*

            Agreed, some of these comments are horribly depressing. And it’s mind-boggling how people are doubling down on their arguments. The plus side is that it’s only a handful of people though. Thank you as always for being a voice of reason.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Same. It is slightly heartening that it’s only a handful of people being so vehemently opposed to the idea and there are far more people like you arguing why helping parents helps everyone. And I’m sure there are even more silent observers like me reading all these comments and trying to figure out how best to respond and failing to come up with anything that hasn’t already been said in support of OP’s idea.

              Also love your username. Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows.

          2. Bubble teacher*

            Just chiming in to say ditto (and I also don’t have kids). Helping others helps yourself too (in this case allowing parents to work and be more productive so non-caregivers don’t have to pick up the slack). The sooner we all figure this out, the faster we’ll be out of this mess.

          3. Crivens!*

            I don’t understand what’s happening here either. It’s like people are just getting more and more selfish and self-centered. It’s honestly horrifying.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I sure as hell didn’t ask to have a 3 year old during the middle of a pandemic. No one has kids thinking “what will I do if the world shuts down before they’re adults and how can I plan for it now so as to lessen the impact?” Although I suppose from now on that might be something new parents consider…

          4. Important Moi*

            I feel like I must say some regarding Anonymous Curmudgeon’s comments. I don’t think this person is heartless. I just do not think there is a way to say their piece without sounding….heartless. There is much going on in the world, not even about just childcare.

          5. Slinky*

            Yes. These comments are really getting me down. You shouldn’t have to be a parent (and I’m not!) to want parents to have support during this time. There have been some weird comments regarding kids on this site recently, like someone who compared babies to cats on the breast feeding letter last week, but this takes the cake.

          6. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Agreed. I’m disabled. Should I feel bad that I get preferential parking outside buildings that my coworkers don’t get (they had to pay for parking elsewhere)?

            Help for those with dependents shouldn’t be a debate. Be they children, elderly or infirm, if they need constant care then they all need extra help right now.

            This has got nothing to do with ‘fairness’. If things were fair then this virus wouldn’t be killing people left right and centre.

            1. Blue*

              Right. If you people see someone give a candy bar to a diabetic going into hypoglycaemia shock, do you throw a tantrum because they didn’t give you a candy bar too? It’s that simple. Jesus.

          7. Candace Tomas*

            Agreed. I’ve been reading for a while, but this is my first comment. It all seems far too similar to elementary-school children crying out that something is “not fair.” Where is the humanity?

        4. Alice's Rabbit*

          As a company grows, they introduce new benefits that weren’t available to earlier employees. Should those previous employees be mad that they didn’t get transit subsidies, tuition reimbursement, etc.? Of course not!
          Every company benefit ever offered has been preceeded by a need which highlighted the lack of that benefit. This is no different.
          Just because you have chosen not to be in the situation that allows you to take advantage of this benefit doesn’t mean others don’t need it in order to keep the company working efficiently.

        5. Taniwha Girl*

          You’re right, they should have started this “temporary stipend to offset childcare costs incurred by global pandemic” program back in 2018. Now that we’re here, and these costs are being incurred by employees and women are disparately suffering, there is nothing we can do to help because it would be unfair to people NOT incurring those extra costs. /s

    5. Esme*

      It’s not about whether you’re valuable, you’re asking the wrong questions here.

      People with children are screwed right now. Many are trying to WFH and homeschool at the same time and their kids are missing out on really important developmental experiences. Children are losing out on things that are usually considered human rights, like the right to education and to play with other children (which is developmentally essential).

      If an employer wants to contribute to making things easier on anyone’s children – who are part of the same human race as you, just smaller – then that is great, and to be commended.

      It’s not about what anyone gets ‘paid’ due to their ‘value.’ It’s about helping meet a need.

      You could suggest other things to do too, but by dressing this up as being about priorities and valuing staff then you’re just being selfish – and I hope no employer makes decisions based on the few who think like this.

      1. valentine*

        It’s about helping meet a need.
        Yes. If they want to give money to people who suffer from house fires or what have you, well, a lot of us don’t qualify. (I really hate the extrapolation “We’re all experiencing x” during the pandemic. We are not.)

        And I assume OP2 will develop a way to assess the need and ensure the money goes where it’s meant to.

        1. Littorally*


          My life is nearly unchanged by the pandemic, because I’m insanely freaking lucky. Let my coworkers whose lives aren’t nearly unchanged get the help they need!

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Thank you! Exactly this! My husband’s career is virtually unaffected by the pandemic. He was asked to take a small, temporary pay cut (just for one quarter) which allowed the company to keep several employees on despite a productivity dip during the worst of the closures. He’s been working from home for more than 2 years. The only change for him is the occasional interruption from our school-aged son.
            I, on the other hand, have been furloughed. Things seem to be reopening soon, though, which will mean needing to find daytime childcare if the schools don’t reopen. That gets expensive, fast. Monetarily, unless I can take later shifts so I’m home for the majority of the day, we might be better off if I don’t return to work.
            That’s the situation this proposal is addressing. It’s not a matter of small consequence. Many workers are facing the harsh reality that they cannot afford childcare for school-aged kids, and so have to drop out of the workforce entirely.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        A lot of people are getting screwed right now, including those WITHOUT children. And a lot of these comments keep bringing up other benefits offered to employees and how not everyone needs or uses them. THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The issue here is that this would be someone that is ONLY offered to those with children. You want to offer a benefit? Great. Offer it to everyone and those in need can use it.

        What if a company offered a bonus to those without kids, because they have more flexibility, can work overtime when needed, etc.. Sounds ridiculous right?

        1. jenkins*

          Well, that’s what Alison said. That the company should offer help with care for all dependents, not just children. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone disagree with that. So, that benefit as suggested would be available to everyone, and those in need would use it. Would that be a problem?

        2. Jennifer*

          We kind of already get a bonus for not having kids because we don’t have to take off every time a kid gets sick or for maternity leave, etc. Working mothers already make less.

          1. Temperance*

            You mean the “bonus” of being expected to work more hours, less flexibility, and likely worse shifts?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Can we not, please? This is not a war between parents and non-parents, and making it one benefits no one but corporations who benefit from the focus being taken off them.

              My career has absolutely benefitted in significant ways from me not having kids or other dependents. That won’t be true for everyone, but it’s disingenuous to pretend it’s not true for a lot of us.

            2. Eirene*

              That’s between you and your supervisor, then. In past jobs, I was the one who got called in on the fly if someone called out unexpectedly and who worked crappy shifts and got stuck with all the holidays because I was single and didn’t have kids. Not once did I blame it on my coworkers, who weren’t the ones making the schedule.

              1. voyager1*

                Most entitled coworker employee I ever met was a single guy with no kids. He would never cover anything extra by volunteering, and when the boss ever asked anything of him he had an attitude. I cheered the day he left.

                So I take huge exception with your views Temperance.

              2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

                That’s not between my supervisor and me when my coworkers are guilt tripping me and saying that I need to work *every single holiday* because “it’s not like you have kids you want to be home with. I want to be with my kids” and then being hostile when I refuse. And then being more hostile when my supervisor gives us a fair distribution of holidays and doesn’t make me work every single one. So no, the expectation does not just come from the person making the schedule.

                The entitled behavior of parents, especially ones with young children, pisses me off to no end.

                1. jenkins*

                  Some parents are jerks, I’m sorry you work with some. In my last office job I worked Christmas Eve and NYE without saying a word about my young children. The non-glassbowls fly under the radar. And I’m not convinced any jerk deserves to be pushed out of work because tax-funded school time just disappeared out from under them.

                2. Eirene*

                  Yeah, it actually is still between you and your supervisor. Does your supervisor know you get guilt-tripped like that and allow it to continue? Sounds like you work in a large pharmacy chain that’s open 24/7 or a hospital pharmacy. If you don’t want to work holidays, you might want to consider working in a privately owned pharmacy or a supermarket pharmacy instead. What your coworkers are doing is sucky, but that’s a selfish bunch of coworkers specific to you, and it’s not necessarily the norm in other professions.

        3. Willis*

          You’re making a distinction where one does not exist. If a company pays for employees’ parking, it’s a benefit available to everyone….but only the people that drive a car and park in the correct lot can use it. If you get a car, you can move into that group. If you will never be able to drive or are dedicated to a lifestyle of walking to work, you’ll never access that benefit. So, if a company provides a childcare stipend, it’s available to everyone…but only people with kids who go to some eligible childcare can use it. People can move into or out of that group depending on their life circumstance, and probably some people will never be in it, but it’s no more or less available to them than other benefits may be to people at work.

          Also, re: your last line, I don’t think it would take much digging to find data on people with greater childcare responsibilities (i.e., women!) making less than those without (or with less) childcare responsibilities. Difficulty affording childcare is definitely a contributing factor, yet it’s something we as a society consistently fail to address.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, I’m a person who does not have kids but wants them, and when hopefully I do have them, I imagine that they will most likely negatively affect my career, not propel me into some privileged group. Of course, there are bad managers who favor some employees over others for BS reasons, but the data show pretty clearly that in the US, having children negatively affects women’s earnings. And yes, it is often (but not always) a choice, but it’s a choice men get to make without worrying about their careers.

            If my organization wanted to offer a dependent care stipend for any caregivers (eldercare also disproportionately falls to women) I’d be all for it, because to me, this is a social justice issue.

        4. Altair*

          Which is why Alison, sensibly and humanely, suggested expanding the criteria. Instead your suggestion is to just not help anyone and let people twist in the winds of fortune.

          1. Altair*

            And, I should have added, let working parents *continue to be less productive at work because they cannot access childcare*, which must have an adverse affect on their childfree fellow employees, right?

        5. Cat*

          You think you don’t get paid more than women with kids?* Oh, you sweet summer child.

          * Sexism means that this doesn’t apply to men.

        6. Alice's Rabbit*

          There are numerous benefits that only a small percentage of the workforce qualify for. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be offered.
          I get it. You’re stressed right now, as are we all. You’re feeling inconvenienced and undervalued. But this is a solution that will help you, too!
          With the ability to afford decent childcare (which many employees can’t otherwise, with the schools closed) those employees will be able to turn their focus back to work during work hours. You won’t have to be picking up the slack anymore. Nor dealing with so many noisy interruptions in work meetings.
          And you won’t be facing a fair chunk of your coworkers having to quit – or at least go permanently part time – so they can oversee their kids’ education.

        7. valentine*

          What if a company offered a bonus to those without kids, because they have more flexibility, can work overtime when needed, etc.. Sounds ridiculous right?
          In addition to OT, some employers already provide bonus pay, pizza, etc. They needn’t exclude parents (and not all parents perform child care).

          OP wants to do something wonderful and I hope they’re not dissuaded, even if they can’t expand it to overall dependent care, much less lower the amount just to include everyone.

    6. Caroline Bowman*

      This is why it should be directly related to dependent costs, NOT children specifically. Many people have now got elderly or disabled relatives and loved ones suddenly not able to access group care for example.

      It should also not be so much extra that it feels like a big bonus. It should be a contribution to help offset additional costs.

    7. Inefficient Cat Herder*

      Does it piss you off when your employer offers a transportation allowance to those who use public transportation, and those who are close enough to walk to work or who aren’t close to public transportation don’t get it?

      Serious question.

      This isn’t a bonus for having kids, it is the employer contributing to a specific expense that some workers have during this crisis that others don’t. It is a way of keeping the business staffed so essential employees don’t need to take extended leave while schools and adult day programs are closed.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yes, exactly! This is just a business fixing a business problem, not a bonus for being a parent.

        My husband sometimes pays for ubers to get employees to work when the bus isn’t running. People tell him how nice that is and he always says, “It’s not nice, I need them in the store and this is what it takes to get them there.” It’s not a reward for anything, he just needs to staff his store. This company just needs their employees to focus on work.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes, exactly! This is just a more flexible version of the company daycare, addressing the immediate need that is only different because of unforeseeable circumstances. The company needs its employees to function, and this will help keep them at the company and focused on work.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Apples and oranges. The transportation allowance is available to EVERYONE. Those who need it, use it.

        1. Sylvan*

          The hypothetical childcare accommodations are available to everyone. Those who need them can use them.

        2. Anononon*

          The arguments are so frustrating. No, the transportation allowance is not available to everyone. It is available to people who live in a specific geographic area, and that is it. Yes, people can move to that area and then be able to take advantage of it, but people can also theoretically have/obtain children and then get the childcare benefit.

          1. jenkins*

            YES. The arguments here keep treating parent/non-parent as more immutable than any other characteristic, and it’s just not true. Sure, lots of people will never become parents or guardians of a child, but lots of people will also never become eligible for benefits like the transportation allowance. They technically could, and that is what it means for a benefit to be available to anyone. I don’t complain that my employer pays for parking, though I have a phobia that means I will never drive and thus never benefit from that. Free parking will be available to me if I can ever use it.

        3. Beehoppy*

          Then one could similarly state “The E-learning allowance is available to everyone” and only those who have children who need that will use that.

        4. Alice's Rabbit*

          No, it’s not available to everyone. I live in an area with horrible public transportation. It’s not available to me, but is to many of my coworkers.
          My husband has been working from home for 2 years. He is not eligible for either the parking reimbursement nor the public transit pass his coworkers in Philly are, because he doesn’t commute.
          Most benefits from work only really benefit a portion of employees. But in the end, they benefit the whole company, including you, because they attract and retain good employees who keep the company afloat.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            ding ding ding we have a winner!
            Most benefits from work only really benefit a portion of employees. But in the end, they benefit the whole company, including you, because they attract and retain good employees who keep the company afloat.

        5. Taniwha Girl*

          Why don’t you pop out a kid right now and see how easy parents have it?

          This is how eligibility works.

          Really disappointed in some of you today.

      3. Call it what it is*

        Removed. You cannot sock poppet here (using different user names to make it appear your position has more support than it does). This is a violation of the site rules and I’m asking you to stop commenting on this post. – Alison

    8. Mel_05*

      Normally, I would feel the same.

      But, given that it would be trying to resolve a covid induced child care emergency so that my coworkers could be more present at their jobs… I don’t think this would bother me

    9. Colette*

      Would you support parents getting paid leave to look after their children? Otherwise, what options do you see – should parents quit? (Keep in mind that if parents can’t work, you may not be able to hire a replacement.)

      There are lots of perks some people get that others don’t – at a previous company, they donated money based on where their employees volunteered. That was a huge benefit for me and most people didn’t get it. They also subsidized bus passes, which was not a benefit for me.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        The benefits you mention are available to EVERYONE. That’s the difference.

        1. Colette*

          So would this be – but, like those, you have to qualify.

          But I don’t understand what you think should happen here. Should parents (probably mothers in many cases) drop out of the workforce?

            1. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

              Honestly, I’d be completely on board with a governmental program that provides stipends for care for dependents during the pandemic.

              I would react poorly to my employer doing it themselves.

              As I mentioned in response to a comment that was removed, most of my objection here is to employers responding to the pandemic by giving money to a specific category of their employees based on their perception of those employees’ needs.

              1. jenkins*

                I don’t really understand why this distinction affects you so much. There’s a need, the government should be filling it but aren’t, so an employer is proposing to do so because ultimately it also affects them. It’s not fun money or even money to help pay rent or whatever, it’s money to make sure that employees can keep getting to work when they might otherwise have to quit altogether. Much like any other accommodation, it removes a specific impediment that by definition some employees have and others don’t.

                1. Colette*

                  Agreed. Employers have all kinds of programs that only apply to some of their employees. If they want to spend money to keep people at work via another program, that’s their prerogative. They’re not raising the salaries of parents; they’re spending money to keep their employees.

              2. Allegra*

                But the government’s NOT doing it. So what are people supposed to do? We can stand here and wish the government would do it all we want–like healthcare or free public transit–but the government doesn’t do that. So instead, employers defray costs of healthcare and frequently give transit or commute stipends to defray those necessary costs of being able to be a productive employee. You have to be healthy to work, you have to be able to get to work to work, and parents or other caretakers have to have childcare or dependent care to work. That is written into most employee handbooks, that even if you’re working remotely you need childcare arrangements because companies know you can’t work while you’re taking care of a kid. And that’s not even the case in the letter, people have to be on-site, which doubly means they need childcare.

                I am childfree by choice. I have had to cover shifts for colleagues that had to take care of sick children or had to look after their kids on a snow day. I know that I and many other childfree people have had bad experiences with employers assuming we’re [x] thing because we don’t have kids. It sucks. But this is not that situation, at all. No one is being devalued or shamed because they don’t have children. A company is attempting to meet a specific need that is preventing their employees from working. If I hadn’t had a functioning laptop when we unexpectedly had to work from home for months, my job would have given me a laptop. I didn’t need that, so I didn’t take it. But you could argue it would have defrayed a cost for me, and it was an option available to anyone who would have needed it. But it was only to be used by people with that specific need.

                Enabling one’s coworkers to work successfully is good for all employees. Enabling women (who are disproportionately being hit by this) to remain in the workplace is a net social good. There aren’t other options right now. People literally can’t work if they don’t have dependent care, much like I literally couldn’t work if my internet suddenly broke. The company is meeting a need to enable people to work.

              3. EventPlannerGal*

                But the US government is not doing that! It is extremely unlikely that they will do that! And in the meantime there is an entire class of people, almost exclusively women, who are at a very real risk of having to drop out of the workforce entirely! This is something that is already happening! I’m sorry for the exclamation marks but it is very frustrating to see someone so hung up on this distinction that has so little relevance to the matter at hand. I really hope your comments do not dissuade the OP from their proposal, which I think is not only good and kind but also extremely sound business sense.

                I am also curious how you would feel if your colleagues with children have to cut back on their hours, delegate work to you or quit altogether leaving you to handle their workload as well as your own. Are you going to say “oh jolly good, they’ve done the responsible thing and thank goodness our mutual employer didn’t try to make an assessment of their needs!” Or are you going to look at your massively increased workload and think oh, if only something could have been done?

              4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                But you do realize that, probably regardless of where you are, your employer is already in the habit of passing along government transfer payments to employees that essentially look like benefits or salary offered solely by the employer itself? How is getting part of the downstream benefit from a business tax incentive or tax credit to your employer all that different than getting a benefit directly from the government?

              5. Taniwha Girl*

                What is the actual difference between a benefit offered by the government, for which you are not eligible, and a benefit offered by your company, for which you are not eligible?

            2. Mama Bear*

              My company has a WFH guideline that you need to plead your case before it is granted. We have a number of single parents in our office that I haven’t seen in months. It is not something that everyone can do, but the company has been generous with the WFH option for parents who are stuck with few resources in the moment. As long as the wheels keep turning, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep options open. That said, there have also been PTO increases and additional flex time for people who need that, too. IMO that is a better response than making a parent choose child or company for something over which they have no control. A lot of districts aren’t offering options – it’s all online for fall.

        2. Jennifer*

          This is available to everyone who is eligible. Just like the transit benefit is available to everyone who is eligible.

        3. Risha*

          I don’t understand why you’re all through this comment section stamping your foot about not being available to everyone. You could adopt a child tomorrow (or have your birth control fail). Then you could use the benefit. Voila. It’s available to everyone, including you.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Or, heaven forbid, a friend of family member is incapacitated and you’re suddenly responsible for their kids. These things happen.

    10. Gummy Bears*

      Removed because of sock puppetry (this person has made the same points under other user names on this post).

    11. OP2*

      Thank you all for considering this and commenting. This is not a salary increase and it’s not about their “value” to the company. This is a proposal for a temporary program that would help employees with a possibly devastating financial burden brought on by COVID-19 closures and the fact that the nature of their jobs requires them to work on location. Yes, I do think that it should extend to any dependent care costs, not just school-aged children. Offering $500 monthly reimbursements to hundreds of employees is not an option, so it’s really disheartening to read so many people saying that if they can’t benefit from it, then no one should. Would you say the same about your company paying more for a family’s medical insurance plan than yours? Ideally, the government would provide some support for these programs, but as it stands that’s not the case.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Exactly, it’s a reimbursement on the burdens incurred, not a spend-as-you-like-it bonus payment.

      2. No Tribble At All*

        OP#2, thank you for commenting, and thank you for proposing the idea in the first place. I agree if you could extend it to all dependent care it’d be a little “more fair”, but the sentiment is to help people who are struggling the most. Clearly you can’t give everyone a “life is more expensive because of Covid” bonus! Would it be possible to make it a sort of grant / reimbursement as opposed to a lump sum? That way it goes to those who need it most. If it’s easy to work with the specific e-learning company, cool, but maybe people could also submit receipts for elder care. Please don’t be too let down by the complainers — you’re doing a good thing!!

      3. Ann Perkins*

        This is a wonderful thing your company is considering doing and I think the few vocal against it would be overwhelmingly in the minority.

      4. Altair*

        Would you say the same about your company paying more for a family’s medical insurance plan than yours?

        A lot of people do. Thank you for being more empathetic, caring, and thoughtful than those that would. Your employees are fortunate in you.

      5. Amy*

        I read through the first hundred comments or so, and initially leaned towards the ‘I am child-free and resentful of financial advantages parents receive’ (based on my own experience in Canada, very different than the US). However, after reading through, I don’t see an issue with a temporary relief for those with dependents who are experiencing increased costs. I would however have an issue with the parents receiving a cash payment themselves, and would only support this if they had to show evidence/proof of increased childcare costs and have it be a reimbursement UP TO $500 per month. Many parents I know in my own life are seeing some increase in costs, but not that high, others have the grandparents temporarily helping at no financial cost to either of them. It would be important to me as an employee not receiving the benefit, that parents are not taking advantage and banking the money. Just as I would not expect to receive a $2000 flat rate tuition benefit if my tuition only cost $1200 and banking the extra $800.

      6. Bubble teacher*

        I think it’s wonderful that you and your company are looking into this (and would be even better to expand to dependent care). I really hope you aren’t put off by the folks who are… not thinking of the collective benefit of such programs… (trying to find a nice way to put it).

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I think you put it very nicely. Those arguing against this have been rather short-sighted. It’s not about giving cash to some employees but not others. It’s about making sure as many employees as possible can return to work, which eases the burden on all employees.

      7. Third or Nothing!*

        I have a 3 year old daughter staying home with me while I work from my kitchen table. We have childcare options, but since all of us are high risk we can’t take advantage of them for our own safety. I wouldn’t be eligible for the stipend for this reason. I still would feel proud of my company for offering such a thing and feel increased loyalty toward them.

        Don’t let the few naysayers get you down. More and more peeps are hopping on in support of your plan, especially if you extend it to all dependent care costs that wouldn’t normally be incurred. It’s a very kind and thoughtful plan and honestly your question gives me some hope that maybe the entire world isn’t on fire – there are still little pockets of decency out there.

      8. Temperance*

        I think it would be more fair to all employees if parents utilizing this benefit had to submit receipts and get reimbursed up to a certain amount, rather than just getting funds without evidence.

        I don’t really see this as the same as health insurance for a family. As someone who is childless, we’re likely working more hours/covering more than our parent colleagues. I’m expected to work my “regular” hours, and to be available earlier/later because parent colleagues get more flexibility, for example. I’d be totally fine with this benefit if it meant that parents would be expected to complete as much work (or an equitable amount) as those of us who are childless.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          This benefit would enable them to do so. That’s rather the whole point of it, in fact.

          1. Anononon*

            It’s amazing how heated some people get when children are brought up that, when a solution is proposed to specifically allow parents to work more, we still get the arguments about how non-parents are forced to work more.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              THANK YOU. This is the part I’m beginning to wonder about. Supposedly childfree objections are about wanting parents and non-parents to have the same expectations when it comes to work productivity and flexibility, so if you pave the way for that to happen yet still have a problem with parents…what’s really at play here?

      9. jenkins*

        Thank you for considering doing this, LW. I think it would be a really wonderful way to support employees who might otherwise really struggle to stay in work at all.

      10. Nerdling*

        Thank you so much for considering this, OP2, and for being willing to extend it to all dependents. I currently work in an office of 12 people. With childcare limited and school likely not opening to in-person instruction any time soon, all four of the women in the office have pondered whether we can keep working at all or will have to go to a leave without pay or part-time situation. A full third of the office. None of us have dependent elders, but I know if someone did, they would be in the same boat as the four of us. When the person for whose survival you’re responsible can’t be alone but you can’t work from home to supervise them, it doesn’t leave a lot of good options. I appreciate your awareness there.

      11. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        The issue is that when you make choices and do the work to rid your life of drama, other people assume that you now have room to absorb and manage THEIR drama. It’s always the same groups asking other-same groups for help, and it’s rarely reciprocated, and yes, it is often parents assuming that non-parents are going to jump to participate in the global act of raising children even though they (often) have made the overt decision not to raise children.

        This is an inconvenient tangent for this particular discussion but I’m not surprised it’s emerging. Working parents are asking for lots of help from non-parents and the non-parents are picking up a lot of slack with no end in sight. When a parent asks for help, are they thinking about how they’ll in turn help out a non-parent? They should.

        1. TTDH*

          The two things are separate, though. Asking non-parents to step in for parents all the time and continuing that pattern even when barriers to parents’ productivity are removed is very bad management – which is not something in evidence in OP2’s post. Their question is about their situation. Sure, it would be super crappy of a company to be unfair in assigning work and then add a financial component to it, but that isn’t in the letter whatsoever.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            Asking non-parents to step in for parents all the time and continuing that pattern even when barriers to parents’ productivity are removed is very bad management

            Yes, and if you’re supporting parents in a way that’s intended to reduce or remove their barriers to equal productivity it becomes a lot easier to shine a spotlight on patterns that continue to disadvantage non-parents.

    12. Ann Perkins*

      For everyone who is opposed to this sort of stipend (whether specifically child care related or dependent care in general), are you also opposed to paid parental leave? These two seem very analogous in that it’s a benefit paid that only specific people end up using.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly! “I want paid time off too even though I’m not giving birth or adopting!” People in different situations have different needs. I don’t get what’s so complicated about that.

        1. Anonymous Curmudgeon*

          As I’ve said before: my issue is with who is meeting these needs, not that different people have different needs.

          And, yes, I would feel less valued by my employer if my employer was giving substantial sums of money to some people because of the employer’s perception of their needs. In a way that I would not feel less valued if I was paying more in taxes to support a governmental program for exactly the same purpose.

          Call it a childcare stipend if that makes you feel better, but it’s still fundamentally the employer giving more money to some employees not because of their job duties, performance, experience, etc. But as a temporary thing in response to a judgment that their needs are more important than those of others.

          The employer would likely find this would boost the morale of many parents. And even a substantial number of people who aren’t parents. But it’s going to cause others — quite possibly a small minority, but I’m also certain I’m not literally the only one — to feel demoralized. The tradeoff could well be worth it for the company. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tradeoff.

          1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

            Yep. What about parents who are doing okay (some of them actually are) and childfree couples who are really struggling? When you make it so arbitrary like this, some people will get money that they don’t really need and others who need it will be left out.

            1. Jennifer*

              What needs do the childfree couples have that the company isn’t already addressing? They are employed, I’m assuming they have good health insurance, including mental health care.

              1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

                Are you at all familiar with retail and food service jobs–just to name a couple–that offer absolutely no insurance or benefits of any kind?

                1. Jennifer*

                  A bit condescending. Of course I’m aware of that. That’s not what we’re talking about here and you know that so it’s a bit disingenuous to bring that up. I’m assuming a company like the OP’s that is offering a childcare stipend also provides other benefits. I highly doubt McD’s offers childcare.

                  What is your suggestion? Should working mothers drop out of the workforce to care for kids and elderly parents since that’s largely what’s happening? Do you want women to be set back in their careers again because of this pandemic?

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  That is a strawman argument, and has nothing to do with the topic at hand. You’re grasping, because you have no valid point.

            2. Uranus Wars*

              But it wouldn’t be for parents who are doing ok. It would be specifically for parents who need the support to keep and be productive at their jobs.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            But as a temporary thing in response to a judgment that their needs are more important than those of others.

            They’re not saying caretakers’ needs are more important. They’re acknowledging that their needs directly impact their ability to do their jobs. Don’t think of it as a parent bonus, think of it as an accommodation.

            1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

              I agree with your general point, but I think your logic is a little flawed. Caretakers are not the only ones that have needs that affect the ability to do their jobs–not by a long shot. And thinking of it as an “accommodation” is even worse because what would be the justification for accommodating some but not others?

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Caretakers have a very specific work-related need. Yes, many people are also extremely needy right now, legitimately so. But most of those needs are not specifically work-related – they impact the employees’ general mental health, financial stability, etc., but they’re not something that has the same direct relationship to doing the day-to-day work as a lack of childcare. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding you? What are examples of specifically work-related needs that you think the company could also be meeting?

              2. EventPlannerGal*

                Almost every other need that I have seen discussed here by people who are opposed to this concept is either covered by Alison’s suggestion of a general dependent/caregiver subsidy, or only affects a person’s work in a long-term or roundabout way. I am struggling to think of many needs that have such a huge and immediate impact on someone’s ability to perform basic functions of their job. What specifically are you talking about?

              3. Alice's Rabbit*

                All accommodations are on an as-needed basis. Unless you’re wheelchair bound, you don’t require accommodations like handicap parking, access ramps, automatic doors, wider doorways, and adjusted desk height. If you aren’t blind, you don’t require a Text-to-Speech translator. If you aren’t allergic, you don’t require a nut-free workplace.
                Those are just a few of the accommodations at my office, which are only made available to those who need them. That’s the whole point of accommodations; to fit the needs of each individual, as well as the company can. There is a need for childcare here and without it, those employees cannot do their jobs. Which then puts extra burdens on their coworkers. This proposal evens out the load.

          3. Jennifer*

            That just makes absolutely no sense to me and just seems a bit whiny. But I don’t think this conversation is productive any longer.

          4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            I see what you’re saying, but it’s not actually about the needs of employees, though. The stipend is about the employer’s need to insulate itself from a large and systemic exogenous threat to business productivity. This isn’t meant to leave parents better off than they were pre-COVID, it’s about a business’ need to get its employees as close to their business-as-usual productivity.

            It’s somewhat naive to treat employer-provided benefits as a matter of employee-centric benevolence – they’re inducements.

      2. Not a parent*

        I work at a medium-to-large sized, fast growing company. My manager was on maternity leave for 6 months when I was hired. She came back, and then several months later, went out again on a second 6 month maternity leave.

        I have no issue with that. But my employer expected me to do two people’s jobs that whole time, hers and mine. They didn’t hire a temp to backfill, nor did they lower expectations of the work. So I got really, really screwed over. I was almost never able to take days off, and had longer hours than most other team members. Just to get the bare minimum of both our jobs done.

        I think paid parental leave is good. But employers need to hire temps, or lower expectations for anyone left behind. Because what I experienced is not ok.

        Similarly with COVID. People without kids have been grinding for almost 6 months now, to make up for the work the parents have dropped. I’m so burnt out, again. That is not ok. If they want to pay parents for childcare, I am all for that, so they can do their effing jobs again.

        1. Jennifer*

          Good point. Parents having childcare helps everyone within the company, including those of us who are childless, because we don’t have to pick up their slack.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. If you don’t have kids who need this kind of care, you still benefit, because parents can do their jobs.

        3. jenkins*

          Yes. Work is labour, childcare is labour, and people need enough time, staff and money to get all the labour done. I think we still skate along in the unconscious belief that childcare can be squeezed around everything else without anyone really needing to spend resources on it, because that’s how our system of work originally grew up – that stuff was done by Wives and it didn’t affect the office. Now we either make gestures towards letting people do necessary family stuff, but don’t provide adequate cover at work while they’re doing it, or we act as if children can be switched off until 6 pm.

    13. Joielle*

      I think the problem is that it feels kind of arbitrary to allocate money for child care only, which is why I’d expand it to any dependent care at a minimum. I can see an argument for a stipend for all dependent care – it’s pretty much impossible to work from home and accomplish much of anything while caring for someone who needs 24/7 supervision, so helping people afford care means that they can be more productive at work. But what’s the logic for giving a stipend for someone who cares for a kid, but not someone who cares for a disabled or elderly adult? In some cases, it’s exactly the same level of responsibility.

      Of course, there are lots of people with kids who are managing pretty well right now, and lots of people without kids who are experiencing major crises, so big picture, giving people a stipend for dependent care and not for other pandemic-related issues is still fairly arbitrary. But I think the more the company can do to reduce that feeling of arbitrariness, the better it will be received by the employees.

    14. JSPA*

      Society has a legitimate interest in allowing parents (read: burden disproportionately on women) to remain in the workforce. That means: provision of childcare, in some way, shape or form.

      The US has chosen (as with access to medical care) to make employers, awkwardly, the entity on whom this societal burden devolves.

      You may (and I do) think that this is a Very Bad Way for a society to handle so broad a need. It was a problem even before Covid closed the schools; Covid has exacerbated an already-problematic situation. (Our children, disproportionately, are raised in poverty, or raise themselves, or both. Our minimum wage is scandalously low. Our social safety net is neither very social, nor very safe.)

      if society abrogates its responsiblity by delegating it to employers, it’s hardly moral to suggest that employers can’t take up the (admittedly inappropriate) burden.

      1. Grapey*

        100% agreed to all of this out of principle, but IMO the phrase safety net is meant to mean “support for when people fall”, which to me is different than “support to keep living the status quo”.

        Properly funding basic things like education shouldn’t be thought of as funding a safety net, it should be considered making the trapeze act less dangerous.

        My single mom dropped out of the workforce to raise me a long time ago and the safety net did a wonderful job in terms of food, housing and education (for me). But it definitely severed her ability to continue being a trapeze artist.

        I would love to see childcare qualified as important as 24/7 emergency rooms (and staffed with people just as trained and considered on call and essential and compensated for such). Until society agrees with your first sentence of wanting to keep everyone in their trapeze act, we’re not going to see society paying for it. I said in another comment that “the economy” still has the attitude of letting women play at “paid careers” as long as we don’t ask people in charge to lift a finger to help.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        I disagree that this was nearly so much of a problem before covid, simply because there are government funded childcare programs, of which public schools are by far the largest. But there are also programs for early childcare, preschools, and after school programs that are government funded, at least for those who qualify for assistance.
        The problem now is that none of these are available. So families who normally rely on these programs are facing the tough decision of losing their jobs to care for their children, or trying to juggle an impossible load.

    15. Anonymous and ChildFree*

      Same for me. I completely understand the toll that this has taken on parents specifically, and if they got a stipend for it, I probably wouldn’t be too bothered in the long run. I mean, there are worse things that you could do.

      That said, I’m probably a little biased because I come from a long history of being treated differently by employers simply because I don’t have kids. I’ve been told I should be the one to work holidays because I don’t have kids. I’ve been told that I don’t need any vacation time because I don’t have kids. And so on.

      To me, this is just one more thing that favors parents. At this point, I’m pretty much numb to it.

      And I’m not even talking about myself, specifically, because I’m doing okay. I’m talking about people that this could really affect.

      For example, at OP’s office, say there is Couple A and Couple B. Couple A have young children whose schools have closed, so they would be eligible for the stipend. Couple B have no children and no dependents, but one of them lost their job during the pandemic and they cannot cover all of their bills on one salary alone. Why is it that Couple A qualifies for help but Couple B is SOL simply because they didn’t reproduce?

      That’s where I have a problem with it.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        The main difference there would be presumably Couple B would be eligible for unemployment assistance, but there has been no government intervention to assist child care and education during this crisis.

        1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

          Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean that unemployment assistance is immediate. It can often take weeks, if not months. If I were Couple B, I would feel demoralized knowing that my coworkers have kids can get immediate relief but I can’t.

          1. jenkins*

            OK, look at this as one, small, flawed way of trying to level the playing field. Because Couple A are just as likely to *also* suffer unemployment, sickness etc. as Couple B, but at least if that hits they’re not already struggling to cover massive childcare costs as well.

            It’s not enough. This shouldn’t be coming through companies at all. But LW can’t single handedly fix the welfare system.

            1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

              I agree about the welfare system, and that no no one solution is going to be perfect.

              That said, you still have the “Well you don’t have kids, so your needs are less important” mindset. And it’s a crappy mindset to have.

              1. jenkins*

                It’s mostly a “your needs don’t prevent you from being here and working” mindset. Which is a big part of why meeting people’s fundamental needs should not fall on companies. That’s not parents’ fault, however.

                Obviously there are other potential issues that prevent people from being there and working. If a person needs to be shielded from Covid and can’t leave their house, they need to be accommodated one way or another. If a person needs help getting set up to work remotely, that should be accommodated. But not every need that doesn’t impact the business is going to be accommodated, because…business. That’s what businesses do. It’s not because parents are more important, it’s the impact of the specific circs on the company.

                1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                  It’s mostly a “your needs don’t prevent you from being here and working” mindset.

                  That, and employers have provisions for what happens when your needs legitimately prevent you from working, even as as childfree person. FMLA, sickness EI in Canada and short/long-term disability in both countries do exactly that, as do other forms of employer-approved leave.

          2. Ann Perkins*

            So the employer shouldn’t provide any relief because the government isn’t doing it fast enough?

            1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

              No, I think the relief shouldn’t be so geared towards “parents only.” Someone above said their company set up a hardship fund, and that employees could apply and explain what their hardship is (whether they’re parents or not) and what they plan to use the assistance for. That was a much better idea.

          3. Anononon*

            That’s not the fault of the business, though! So because the state government is laggy and inefficient, a business has to mirror that?? I mean, this is getting a little ridiculous. Not every person is eligible for every benefit – it just does not work that way.

            Stuff like this is why my friend’s company had to cancel free monthly lunches. The remote employees were upset because they couldn’t join. Note, they were either given gift cards or reimbursed to get their own lunch, but because they couldn’t be a part of the in-person lunch eating, some complained.

          4. Cat*

            Wouldn’t you think Couple B was demoralized knowing that they don’t have a job and Couple A does? Because if Couple A loses their job, they’re not getting this stipend either.

      2. pieces_of_flair*

        What about Couple C who have young children or other dependents to care for AND one of them has lost their job and they cannot cover all of their bills on one salary alone? They wouldn’t qualify for help either because the one who isn’t working can take care of the dependents and they don’t need to pay for daycare. But they are still SOL.

        This is a dependent care benefit aimed at people with new and burdensome dependent care costs, not “let’s give parents extra money because they chose to reproduce.” Not all parents will be able to use it. Some non-parents will be able to use it for other dependents. It’s not parents against non-parents. It’s a company recognizing a problem that is making some of its workers less productive and finding a way to address it.

        Yes, Couples B and C would be better off if one spouse’s company would pay them extra because the other spouse lost their job. But what advantage would that have for the working spouse’s employer? The employer is not a charity. On the other hand, helping Couple A pay for childcare will allow the employee to continue working and increase their productivity. This benefits the company as well.

        So yeah, it would be nice if the company would give all its employees some sort of hardship stipend, but realistically they can’t afford to do that and they are going to focus their efforts on what will benefit the company most.

      3. Uranus Wars*

        I would say with no stipend both are SOL. Because the employee in Couple A, if unable to do their job, is going to end up unemployed and potentially unable to cover bills.

      4. Alice's Rabbit*

        Because couple B’s situation has nothing to do with the employer of the still-working partner. Except in that the employee in couple B is more stressed, it doesn’t affect their ability to show up to work. It doesn’t take several hours out of their workday, nor does it require them to be physically present somewhere other than the job site on a daily basis.
        That analogy doesn’t hold water.

      5. TTDH*

        Couple A qualifies for help with a type of expense that Couple B does not have. Couple A isn’t qualifying for help that can be used on whatever they please, it’s a stipend for reimbursement for specific costs that a childless person will by definition not incur. It doesn’t make Couple A any less SOL than Couple B in any way other than specifically childcare. That is why.

    16. fposte*

      Responding broadly (and as a childless person) I think it’s true that there will be people who will be demoralized by other people getting this benefit, and I don’t think that there’s a way to ensure that doesn’t happen without just giving everybody a bonus.

      But I think for just about any benefit, there are people who are demoralized because it doesn’t apply to them or because it’s not enough. And I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it. Many of us childless people won’t mind, and just about everybody with care needs will find it valuable, so it’s likely to be an overall gain.

    17. Nikki*

      I’m so confused by all the comments saying this isn’t fair because other people are struggling with a variety of other financial setbacks. Employers largely only care about fixing problems that affect their business directly. Helping parents with child care for their children means that those employees can focus on their jobs and be more productive. I work for a company based in Minneapolis, and when there was rioting there a few months ago the company offered hotel rooms to anyone who didn’t feel safe in their homes as a result of the rioting. That wasn’t a benefit available to everyone because, thankfully, most people felt safe staying in their homes, but I’m so glad the benefit was available so all my co-workers had a safe place to stay. This was also a benefit to the company because it made their employees more productive when they felt safe. It’s awfully heartless to declare nobody should get child care subsidies because some people don’t have children, so if you can’t see it from the perspective of the parents who are struggling, maybe it would at least make more sense to you if you view it from the lens of what the company gets out of helping their employees and why they might want to offer this benefit.

      1. Washi*

        Exactly. There is a glaring nation-wide social issue that is preventing a large swath of workers from being productive. Since the government is not stepping in and the company has an interest in retaining its workforce and the diversity of its workforce, it makes sense that the company would try to intervene on its own.

        Like if you imagine some horrible future where somehow there is a medication supply chain issue/shortage and people who are on prescription meds only got a 3 day supply and need to wait in line at the pharmacy multiple times a week during business hours, disrupting their productivity. Would people object to a company offering to pay for a medication delivery service because not everyone takes prescription medications? Would they balk at covering for their coworkers who needed meds and imply that those with medical conditions are irresponsible, but then also refuse to allow the company to even the playing field?

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          That’s an excellent analogy!
          Or, for a more mundane comparison, it’s like a company providing lunch for one team with a particularly busy day, so employees don’t have to leave the building to forage for food. The meal in question isn’t enough to feed the whole company. But it will feed the development team who has been working overtime trying to get the product out on time, and that on-time release benefits the whole company.

    18. logicbutton*

      Let’s say your job involves typing. One day someone t-bones your car and you break both your arms. Your company leases some talk-to-type software so you don’t have to quit. Is that unfair to your coworkers who don’t have cars?

  10. Treebeardette*

    1 – I never knew it involved drinking. I’ve played that game many times as a young adult and it always clean. However, I can see why you would be cautious because it really depends on everyone playing. If your co-workers have a track record for inappropriate things, then maybe you can bow out of this one. “Hey, I had something come up, I won’t make it this week. See you next time!” Or “I already have something planned at that hour, I’ll see you all next week.”

    1. Carlie*

      Me too. I don’t think of it as anything other than a goofy youth group game, and not even for points. In the version I’ve seen you just get eliminated until there’s one person left. Never would have occurred to me to add alcohol and raunchy statements. We all inhabit vastly different worlds.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yes, that was how I played it. I only discovered it was a drinking game when some friends invited me to play and their version was *quite* different.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yeah, at retreat and Youth group icebreakers, it was always just crossing the circle or swapping chairs or something like that. It may also be a drinking game but drinking isn’t inherent to the game the way it is with other drinking games. And you can ask whatever the heck you want.

    2. JSPA*

      Problem is, if even one person has only heard of the “no holds barred” version (which is certainly common enough that this is a likely scenario) and isn’t thinking as clearly as OP, they may “go there.”

      And if the organizer, like you, has never heard of anything except the clean version (hunh, I’m coming to realize that my young adult experience was apparently a lot raunchier than some?) they won’t know to shut that down, before it happens.

      Whether or not OP wants to participate, I would definitely say to the organizer, “I assume you’re thinking of the clean, work-appropriate version of the game. But it’s also very commonly played as an extremely raunchy drinking game. Before someone starts down the road towards the sort of questions that we’ll all regret, would it make sense to clarify that this is a “G” rated, non-drinking game?”

  11. andy*

    > Since the two hallmarks of this game are excessive drinking and absurd questions, I can’t help but feel “never have I ever” is an inappropriate game for a Zoom call. Since it’s happening during working hours and our boss is always on these calls, I don’t want to simply skip it. Is there a more graceful way to bow out of something like this?

    As a tech person, one thing I love about tech culture (as opposed to management culture) is that it is perfectly acceptable to just say: “I dont want to join today, have fun” or “I dont like that game” or “I dont want to drink”. And then you can stay your ground. And most people dont think twice and those who hold it against you are the ones who dont fit.

  12. UShoe*

    Re: #4

    The one thing I would wonder here is whether the colleagues were actually on some sort of reopening planning committee and needed the information to organise their timetabling. There’s a lot of work to do for reopening and a lot of organisations are bringing in wider groups to take on responsibilities and have a broader range of input. Also the fact that they started the conversation about accommodations makes me think that line managers/bosses were asked to gather this information. It also sounds like it was shared with a small group rather than as a general announcement.

    Of course, in an ideal world they would have shared your need for accommodations without sharing the reason for it. It’s thoughtless that they did that, but might have been normalised by other people oversharing in planning meetings.

    1. Pregnant Letter Writer*

      Original letter writer here — I really like this thought process because it gives some benefit of the doubt to my boss (who I like a lot!) and I was struggling with his perspective on this. You’re right, it was not a large announcement, it was shared with a small group of colleagues who I work most closely with (and also happen to be part of the reopening team due to their roles). It’s plausible that was his thought process in sharing the information.

    2. pbnj*

      I wish OP’s boss would have kept it generic by saying OP will need to quarantine for X weeks or OP has a medical condition requiring Y. At my company, only the company nurses know, and the employee’s supervisors just get told that so-and-so has a medical restriction and is unable to work in the field for a certain number of months. The employee can disclose their pregnancy when they are ready. Of course, we all can guess why a female employee may have medical restrictions for several months, but we all pretend not to know the reason.

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      Even so, the boss still shared confidential medical information without permission. That’s not okay, and that’s what needs to be addressed so it doesn’t happen again.
      He could just as easily have said “OP will require 2 weeks of quarantine, starting on X date, followed by some leave time, so we need to prepare for adequate coverage.” That way, no personal details are revealed, but arrangements can still be made.

      1. UShoe*

        Yes, I’m aware. That’s why I said “in an ideal world they would have shared your need for accommodations without sharing the reason for it.”

        This was not good behaviour and they should absolutely be sharing needs not medical information.

  13. Esme*

    #2 Why not approach the provider and negotiate a group deal? For example maybe you could try to get a discounted membership, which you could also then subsidise if you wanted. I bet they’d be open to discussing it.

    1. Esme*

      This might also take care of the ‘it’s not fair’ brigade who don’t like the idea of a stipend.

  14. Harper the Other One*

    OP 2: is there a way you could broaden this to be more about pandemic-related needs, maybe even beyond caregiving? Could you give a smaller stipend that you grant based on some simple application that asks what the employee would use the grant for? Aside from just the issues of people dealing with elder/disability care, things that occur to me are people facing higher transportation costs if your area has reduced public transit service, need for new desk/chair for those who are able to work from home, perhaps higher prescription costs (our area stopped allowing people to get more than a month’s supply of medications at a time to avoid stockpiling, but that means paying multiple dispensing fees…)

    At a bare minimum I think it should be expanded to “care for a family member” but I think the more flexible you are, the better this will be for morale.

    1. Anonymous and ChildFree*

      I agree with this. There’s no one way that’s going to be perfect for this, and the company can’t just be handing out thousands of dollars will nilly. But there are so many people dealing with hardships other than just having kids.

  15. Panda*

    While I have played the drinking version, most of the times I’ve played Never Have I Ever it has been as an icebreaker game where you count down fingers instead of taking drinks. The questions have always been along the lines of “never have I ever been to the Bahamas” or “never have I ever gone sky diving/ridden a camel/eaten escargot”. I would assume this is the version your coworker meant until shown otherwise.

  16. Just a PM*

    #3, I was in your shoes recently. What worked for me was being so flexible and transparent with my boss. I told him that I needed 5 consecutive days off and it had to be by the end of *this* month and I was willing to let him pick the dates. He appreciated that I was flexible on the dates that I think it was a better conversation than if I’d gone in saying “I need these dates or else” (like my coworkers did). I think your boss will be too, especially if they continue to be as reasonable as they are in your letter! Good luck and I hope you’re able to relax in your time off!

    (FWIW, when I went off on my vacation, that meant my boss had to take over the Terrible Project and they realized how crappy everyone had been treating me so when I was back, they were stepping in to give me more cover so I wasn’t taking as much fire. I eventually left the organization altogether because of that project. I hope you have better results!)

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      a) Glad it worked out so well for you.
      b) I too was in a similar position recently. Went to the boss in late June originally saying, “I was thinking about taking a day off in July.” He didn’t have any suggestions other than “when nothing is due.” We agreed that schedules are such that there would likely be a window, but we wouldn’t necessarily know when it was until a few days ahead. I kept an extra close eye on the work schedules and found a window. Went to boss on Monday saying, “Either this Friday or next Monday looks to be the time. What do you think?” He said, “Monday.”
      And lo, it came to pass….

    2. OP #3*

      Thank you for the encouragement! I do think being flexible is probably going to help the conversation. Part of the reason I worry is that one set of the difficult stuff has a reputation for complication–everyone else is a little afraid of it! But my boss often says “we have to be able to do this for when you take vacations”, so I know this at least is already on their mind.

  17. Luna*

    LW4: Unless the person is one of the two to have caused the pregnancy/will be the ones to raise the child, the news of pregnancy should never be shared by them.

    1. Colette*

      That’s just not reasonable. There are business reasons why someone might need to know. (I mean, I guess you could say “Jane is going to be out for X weeks starting 5 months from now”, but that’s unnecessarily vague in a lot of situations.) But also, I’ve had friends say “my sister is pregnant”; my mom told me my cousin was pregnant. This is normal stuff.

      I’d agree that no one should be rushing to share news of a pregnancy to people closer to the pregnant person than they are, but sometimes there are reasons other than gossip to talk about it.

      1. pbnj*

        I posted above, but I wanted to share that my company keeps this information generic, and it hasn’t caused any issues. Why do people need to know the specific reason why you have medical restrictions or that you will be on leave? They just need to know what the restrictions are and when you’re going on leave, so they can accommodate you. It’s none of my concern why Wakeen is going on leave, I just need to know that we need to divvy up his tasks for an estimated X amount of time.

        1. Colette*

          Sometimes you can, of course. Where I am, maternity leave it typically around a year. If you say someone is going to be out for a year, it’s pretty obvious what the reason is. But also, people care about each other, and it would be weird to respond to something like “I hope everything’s OK” with “I can’t discuss that.”

          1. The Grey Lady*

            Yeah, this happened at my last office.

            My pregnant coworker was on vacation, but hadn’t told anyone in the office besides our manager about the pregnancy (she wasn’t showing yet). Manager told everyone that Coworker would be out for a while in a few months for medical reasons, but wouldn’t give specifics. Everyone thought that Coworker was having a life-threatening operation or something, and she came home to tons of well wishes and “we’re thinking of you!” type cards. When she came back into work, she found out what it was all about, and then laughed and said, “I’m just pregnant, no need to call the Swat Team!”

            1. Altair*

              FWIW I think well wishes are pretty appropriate with pregnancy. Not to be grim but I know four women who nearly died because of pregnancy and childbirth, one of them being myself.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Colette –
        There is a world of difference between a friend telling you about their sister, your mom telling you about your cousin, and a boss telling your co-workers. I realize that Luna’s observation was written as a general comment but everything about this brings it to work settings, not family and friends.

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        But if you were also friends with that sister, wouldn’t she want to be the one to tell you? Same if you were close to your cousin. My best friend happens to be one of my cousins, and she has known about all of my pregnancies even before my own parents – and kept her mouth shut until I give permission, because it’s my news to share. Heck, with my third, she knew before my husband did, and helped me plan a fun reveal for him. Again, without breathing a word.
        But what you are describing are strictly social situations. This is a business issue, and it’s not only rude, it’s actually illegal for the boss to share confidential medical information without permission.

        1. Colette*

          It’s not illegal as far as I know.

          So let’s think this through. Let’s say I’m a manager. My employee tells me she’s pregnant and she’s going to need X time off.

          I need to hire someone to cover for her, so I go to my manager (who knows who my employee is but hasn’t said more than hi to her) and say “Jane is going to be out on medical leave, I need to hire a temp.”

          The boss says “Oh no, I hope it’s something minor.”

          How do I reply?

          If it’s someone you’re close to and you want to tell yourself, you have to tell them quickly – because otherwise people will assume they know and mention it to them. So if you tell your boss earlier than you want to make an announcement, you will be happier if you ask them to keep it quiet.

    2. Cat*

      Heh, when I was pregnant I finally told a couple of coworkers that it was ok to just tell people when I saw them. I worked remotely and it was too much trouble to hunt every single person down and tell them, and I didn’t want people to be like “wtf, Cat has a baby now?” when I was on leave. I had figured that news would spread naturally but it really didn’t.

    3. Pregnant Letter Writer*

      Ha! @Luna I realize this is a professional board, but I have family members who I would love for you to share that advice with. (At least for those I was VERY explicit because I anticipated problems. “No. You may not post about my pregnancy on Facebook”.

  18. animaniactoo*

    LW4, I’m sorry, apparently you work for my father, even though he has no employees. I’m not sure how that weird confluence of events happened, but it clearly has.

    The thing you can express right now to him is this: “I really appreciate how excited you and others are for me. I wish I had been able to tell them myself, I was looking forward to sharing my news with them!”

    And then just remember that news that you share with him, you will need to either request that he not share it with others until you’ve had an opportunity to do so, or instantly share it yourself. To this day, my dad still does not get why I was upset when I got my 1st cell phone ~25 years ago, at the point when pagers were still common and cell phones were not – and I called him from the bus stop and gave him the number and then the bus came and in the 20 minutes that it took for me to get from the bus stop to my home, he had managed to give it to my mom, all of my sisters, and my grandparents. I imagine news of pregnancy would have spread even quicker… lol.

    1. Gummy Bears*

      My father shares any good news too of the people he loves too, we hate it but it really makes him so proud. He was never a manager, he retired early as a school milk man. When I got engaged my father announced to everyone he met until the wedding that “His baby was getting married, and he was paying for a wedding”. When I got pregnant again he called and personally told everyone he met (each pregnancy) “I am getting a grand-child”. He does this for new jobs, new vehicles, he lost his mind he was so excited when my niece had her first piano recital. You would have thought she was playing at Carnegie Hall and not the open area at the arts center.

      1. Altair*

        This must be really frustrating, but I can’t help but giggle. I have met the guy who is just Beaming Like The Sun as he tells Absolutely Everyone his Baby is Getting Married. I was utterly delighted.

    2. Homes*

      Haha, my father too! He was so proud of my first job offer out of college that he was telling everyone my starting salary! Cue the embarrassment. I have learned to give him restrictions on what and who he can tell.

  19. Eastcoaster*

    LW#2 My company implemented a dependent care stipend earlier in the pandemic- I work in healthcare so employees couldn’t work from home. It wasn’t just a blank check, they had to submit some form of written receipt (even a check stub from paying a nanny or babysitter I think was sufficient), they were reimbursed, and it was limited to a certain $ amount per month. Definitely doable!

  20. Jennifer*

    Re: Childcare

    Fair doesn’t always mean equal. It’s sad how many adults don’t know that. I think what you’re suggesting is a great thing and extending it to those who care for adult relatives is a good idea.

    I highly doubt any parent stuck at home with a screaming toddler and no childcare right now feels very privileged. It makes me sad that this OP fears childfree employees will gripe about “special treatment.”

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I actually *do* feel privileged, because I haven’t had to quit my job or put my at-risk child in daycare. My employer has been very understanding throughout this whole mess. I also live in an area that thinks COVID is stupid, so my situation is becoming depressingly rare. So yeah, while everything sucks and the world is on fire and I’m struggling hard to work at least 75% normal output, I still don’t have to choose between my life and my livelihood.

      It makes me sad that I feel so lucky. Being a working mom was never supposed to be like this.

  21. Lyssa*

    I haven’t played “never have I ever” since my late teens, but it was always in a group situation where you couldn’t go too far and never involved drinking (say, a group affiliated with school or church). It was rowdy and silly, but not inappropriate. Not sure how this could translate to Zoom, but we always played it sort of like musical chairs – everyone who answered no (or maybe yes?) had to get up and scramble for a chair, and the person left standing had to ask the next question.

  22. 3DogNight*

    For letter #3, and everyone else wondering about taking time off, just do it! Please take days off, even if it’s one or two days at a time. This is part of your pay, employers like to say benefit (which it is), but this is part of your paycheck. Take the vacation. Things this year are super stressful, without any of the other issues we all have anyway. Don’t be a jerk about it, but please take it.
    I’m watching people burning themselves out, and their work is declining. Their attitude is turning negative, and they don’t realize it.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I agree. I have a job similar to LW where I’m holding a lot of different projects or pieces and my being out does ripple through- I worry about that when planning a vacation, planning my maternity leave, and even when I was in a serious car accident on the way to work…honestly though the world keeps turning, things might be a little slower but people cope (especially for a small vacation), and work will always be there.

      I think especially during the pandemic, where a lot of us have been stuck at home or severely socially limited, we’re all starting to climb the walls. I’m take a week off next week and I feel like I have never needed a break more in my life. If you have a cool manager and company, especially take it with a good clear conscience (take it even if they aren’t cool, but in this case you don’t even have to negotiate any fall out).

      1. OP #3*

        Thank you both, I feel really encouraged by the responses. (And I hope you’ve recovered from your accident!)

  23. WellRed*

    As I read all these comments stating, “but it’s not faaaaiiiir” all I can think of is the letter earlier this week (or last?) in which the executive director was saying things like “every second you spend on childcare is time spent not working.” That’s an impossible place to be for parents and other caregivers and that’s why all these, “but, but, but” scenarios are offering false logic.
    I am childfree.

  24. Vanny Hall*

    Off-topic, but has this site been redesigned? Suddenly the text appears faint and tiny; I had to enlarge it twice to read it! Never had any problem before.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      There was a brief thing the other day that was fixed pretty quickly, but your browser might have cached it. Try clearing cache and cookies.

  25. Call it what it is*

    Removed because of sock puppetry (this person has made the same points under other user names on this post).

  26. MissGirl*

    OP 5, I get the feeling you believe because you aren’t “going on vacation,” you can’t take days off. If that’s the case, it’s 100% fine to take days off to stay home. I just finished a four-day weekend. Just tell your boss you’re taking time off and which days work. I think you’ll be surprised how not a big deal this is.

    1. seahorsesarecute*

      I just heard a statistic on the radio that to help with stress, we should at a minimum take one day off every 42 days. Which equals about one 3 day weekend every 6 weeks or so. Makes me think I should do more than the minimum in this world though.

    2. virago*

      I just took a six-day stretch — Thursday and Friday, then Monday and Tuesday — and went *nowhere*.

      But I took a window screen to the hardware store to be fixed, broke down a bunch of boxes from stuff I’d ordered and put them out for recycling, cleaned off my little porch and read out there, swam in the ocean, etc. Just being able to set my own schedule for a few days really, really helped me.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Yeah, this! I have Monday-Friday off next week (was originally supposed to leave for Scotland with the family on Saturday, and have 2 weeks of vacation) and the toddler is with her grandparents for 3 days. Last night we did a LOT of planning of both small home projects and treats we can accomplish at home without a little one underfoot. I wish swimming in the ocean were an easier thing to arrange!

  27. Jennifer*

    #2 On second thought, is this a moot point? Are there any daycares open in the area with spots available? Do parents even feel comfortable sending their kids there? People are focused so much on fighting about whether they deserve the benefit, I think this point was missed.

    1. Name Required*

      No, it is not a moot point. Many daycares are open (or remained open) and some are extending programs to offer alternatives to schooling. Other people are hiring high-risk teachers who have dropped out of the workforce to protect their health when their school district decided to return in-person, or nannies/full-time caregivers to come to their homes to teach or care for their children.

      1. Jennifer*

        Right, but I doubt this stipend would be enough to cover the cost of an in-home nanny.

        Many daycares have limited spots and a lot of parents don’t want to risk sending their kids to daycare and risk them getting sick or bringing home the virus. If it’s not safe to send them to school, why would it be safe to send them to daycare? I do think the company’s heart is in the right place.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          It’s not any more risky. But when the schools refuse to open, parents don’t have that choice.
          The thing people need to keep in mind is that this disease hasn’t been affecting kids much at all. Thus far, not a single child has died of covid who wasn’t already high-risk (meaning they had a significant preexisting condition) and even then, only 31 children under 15 have died. The common cold kills more kids than that. Also, the countries that did reopen schools quickly did not see a drastic increase in cases, meaning kids aren’t spreading this disease, either. We all know what little germ factories kids are, so this really is significant.
          High-risk kids need to be kept isolated, sure. But there’s no need to lock down the healthy children. People are understandably afraid, but the logical path is clear. There is no need to keep kids quarantined for this.

          1. TTDH*

            I really hesitate to say this because I don’t want to derail the conversation and I can see that potentially coming, but there are a lot of logical flaws in your argument about not “locking down healthy children”. The fact that children over age 9 can transmit COVID-19 just as readily as adults and while young children are less likely to die or suffer severe respiratory symptoms there have been hundreds of reports of immunological/inflammatory disorder responses in children make your counting of deaths and “common cold kills more kids than that” comment sound very flip.

          2. TTDH*

            Also – whether it’s more risky really depends on the format of both the daycare and the school and the age of the children, and in many cases there are fewer total children in and out of a daycare and less age mixing (since studies are finding large differences between the 0-9 crowd and the 10-18 crowd) than there would be at a school. It’s disingenuous to say that the risk level is the same, and as someone with a lot of educator friends it really bothers me to see language like “schools refuse to reopen”. They’re not just sitting there having a tantrum, they’re trying to be safe in environments that were already very poor from a health standpoint (if you’re talking about public education).

          3. Taniwha Girl*

            I don’t think we know for sure yet that children don’t spread the virus to adults. We suspect they aren’t particularly vulnerable but my research suggests the science is still forthcoming. And I don’t know how we un-lockdown children but continue to lockdown for teens and adults. Who is going to watch the children?

  28. Imaginary Number*

    OP #4:

    I think you should tell your boss that you’re upset about this.

    I … once did something similar. It was a long time ago but it’s a mistake that stuck with me. I knew about a coworker’s pregnancy only because it was something I had to know because it changed the type of physical work she would be doing. And I congratulated her … in front of other people. I didn’t mention the pregnancy specifically, but it made it pretty easy for those people to put 2 and 2 together. I was completely oblivious that I did anything wrong and completely mortified when her boss told me how upset I had made her.

    Being confronted about it and having to apologize for an embarrassing mistake really made the lesson sink in. If you think your boss is probably a good person who just made a judgement error, I think it would be really good to tell him.

  29. mgguy*

    Re: #3-

    I know the feeling of being in the position where you really are the only one who can do certain tasks. I HAVE written contingency documents(and they’re going to be relevant as I have one week left at my current employer, and they’re not replacing me for budget reasons) and tried to keep them updated. In my case, though, my documents have a very general “This is how you do this” section on the first page with a whole bunch of “If this happens do this”(with an index I try to keep updated) that for one particular task runs close to 10 pages. Without fail, though, it seems like often when I am off something comes up that I genuinely haven’t seen before(I’ve been known to privately quote Mark Twain “If you show me something fool proof, I’ll show you a smarter fool” in reference to this) and I still end up taking care of and then of course adding it to the documentation.

    With that said, though, you come first. If you’re as close to your breaking point as you describe, you might find yourself in the hospital or elsewhere from being overwhelmed by it-that’s a very, very real possibility that I’ve seen at my work(usually graduate students) just pushing themselves too hard for whatever reason. Even putting that aside, being mentally stressed can make you more susceptible to being physically ill and still put you out of commission for a few weeks if not longer.

    If you want to look at it from a business/boss’s perspective, would you rather know ahead of time “Okay, Jane is going to be out X-Y on vacation, so we need to plan accordingly” or get a call one day “Jane’s in the hospital/elsewhere unable to work and it make be a while before she’s able to get back to work.”

    Of course, the bigger issue is that you don’t WANT to get into that position, and if a vacation is what it takes, take it especially since it’s being actively encouraged now. I can’t imagine any good manager in your situation saying “Nope, sorry, not now.”

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you for this really excellent point. I do feel like I’m teetering on the edge of maybe needing to take some sick days, and I’d much rather have it be planned! And yes, I expect at least a handful of weird or unusual things would come in at any time I’m out, but luckily our tasks are rarely very time-sensitive. I have to remind myself it’d be fine for most things to wait until I’m back, if I take time.

  30. Ellie May*

    2. I suggest thinking carefully about this idea … I understand the need but I am concerned about how this would be received by non-parents. There could be a range of interpretations here from appreciation that parent co-workers can focus and contribute more fully to eye-roll to flat out annoyance this perk is of value/need to only some. This is an investment in a sub-segment of employees rather than all. Alison rightly notes perhaps this could be received more positively if it applies to all dependents and not just children.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same with pretty much every benefit a company offers. My husband has worked from home for years. He doesn’t qualify for parking reimbursement or transit subsidies, because he doesn’t commute. That’s more than $100 a month in benefits that we don’t get. Because we don’t qualify for them.
        Equality and equity are not the same thing. Your company is trying to make sure employees can do their jobs. This makes it possible.

  31. Erin*

    Can we take a sec to give some props to the business owner who wants to help with childcare costs because schools aren’t opening?!

    I don’t have kids/dependents to take care of, but I would be hugely supportive if my company put this initiative in place for those who do. Some of my co-workers are at their breaking point with WFH and caregiving. My direct report Manager has a senior parent to take care of with the help of a in-home aide during the work week. I have another co-worker who is a single parent to a 5 year old. They are both a bit frayed to say the least.

    From a productivity standpoint, if the company does implement a stipend for caregivers, those employees would be able to have deeper levels of engagement, which would lighten the load for the rest of the team and improve morale for everyone. I see it as a win/win on many levels.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Right?? Good guy company wants to help people — even if it’s for selfish “I want more work out of my employees who are parents” reasons, it’s still something that will help!

    2. Altair*

      So true. The LW commented abovethread and I made sure to praise them for precisely this reason.

    3. Sylvan*

      I completely agree with you. Plus, a company treating employees with kids well shows me that they might be accommodating for any needs I might have. It’s good for everyone.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Excellent point. Just because you don’t need any specific accommodations at the moment, doesn’t mean you never will. This shows the employees that their company truly cares about their needs, and recognizes they’re human beings, not robots.

    4. Eirene*

      I don’t have children and don’t plan to, but my company has done something similar-ish, and I think it’s great. My coworkers with kids are clearly stressed out and trying as hard as they can to stay on top of their work while parenting full-time. How could I possibly begrudge them taking advantage of a benefit meant to both remove a bit of stress from their lives and retain them as employees? Altruistically, I care about my coworkers and their mental and emotional health. Selfishly, I don’t want them to burn out and quit because then that would result in way more work for me. I honestly don’t see a downside to this. The “but it’s not fair” take is so weird to me.

    5. Alice's Rabbit*

      Yes! Awesome boss, here! And this benefits everyone in the company, not just the parents.

  32. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: If the culture emphasizes heavy drinking, you can always do the time-honored dodge of a glass of sparkling cider, tonic water, or something else that looks like booze. That way, you can stay sober and in control, so you don’t veer off into NSFW territory.

    OP5: Congratulations and best wishes in your new job!

  33. Anonymous at a University*

    #2 I think this is a great idea, and the only way I would object is if I was told that I had to cover all the work of a parent who was getting help with childcare and thus no longer had to care for a young child during the day. I doubt your company is going to offer that help and then pile still more work on childless employees.

    Although, if you can afford to offer the help to people who also have other dependent care problems, that would be even better, as someone whose mother needed that kind of help for 14 years.

    1. Taniwha Girl*

      The stipend is so that parents can have someone else watch their kids, so they can work. Why would the company pay someone to not work?

      I don’t understand how so many people are misunderstanding that this is to help parents so childless workers are unburdened, not to “pay them for having kids”.

  34. Ray Gillette*

    I’d love it if my company offered some sort of childcare or dependent care stipend. I don’t have kids, but one of my direct reports does (three of them, all under 5) and unsurprisingly his productivity has tanked.

  35. Chronic Overthinker*

    In regards to OP 1; What about turning down an offer when you have been given an offer by another company? I had this happen. I applied to two very different jobs and had interviews the same day. Interview 1 went alright, but no immediate offer. Interview 2 went amazingly well and they offered me the job contingent upon completing a drug test. While I was at the drug testing facility I got a call from interview 1 offering me the job. That was the one I really did want as it was more in line with my career path. So I ended up calling company 1 rescinding my offer. I have been at new job for over a year and have gotten a raise but have always wondered if I burned a bridge with company 1.

  36. White rabbit*

    2. I think the fair/unfair comments are missing the point. It’s in MY best interest that there are lots of children growing up safe and well educated to become MY healthcare providers, bus drivers, grocery clerks, etc. Sure, there are benefits to being a parents but there are very real costs as well, some of which I help pay (taxes going to schools, for instance) but which primarily fall to parents. I think we should join the rest of the world and recognize that it’s up to the government (meaning all of us) to support parenting of children, but in the meantime, any business that picks up the slack is doing all of us a huge favor.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      Point of order: It’s not up to the government. It’s up to the community, of which the government is a part. But so are companies, individuals, service organizations, neighbors, etc.
      But otherwise, I agree wholeheartedly with your statement. Good childcare options and education options benefit all of society. And whether one chooses to have children or not, we are all equally reliant on younger generations in our old age. Best to see them cared for, so they become productive members of society.

  37. Sunglass*

    Wow, the Crabs In A Bucket mentality of some commenters is deeply disappointing. A company is considering trying to help people (statistically a disproportionate amount of women) remain in the workforce during an unprecedented social crisis, and all some people can do is whine that it’s not fair. If *I* can’t get, it then *no one* should!

    I do not have children. My life has been, at best, mildly inconvenienced by this pandemic. If my colleagues with small children, or caring for an elderly or disabled loved one, are given extra support by my company to enable them to stay in their job? That is absolutely fantastic. If they don’t do that? I imagine a lot of my female colleagues will leave. And that’s yet more women set back in their careers – perhaps permanently. Perhaps some people should do some research on how this sort of thing has already had an enormous impact on women at work.

    1. Foila*

      Right? Crabs in a bucket is exactly it.
      I have no children, my life is easy. Whatever little stipend the company is coming up with is worth way less than the expenses in time, concentration, perception, and yes, money, incurred by parents. It doesn’t even compare – kids are so expensive, it’s not like the company lobbing a few bucks their way could even come close to compensating for the costs of parenting. They could make it a huge number, and resource-wise I’m pretty sure I’d still come out ahead, compared to if I had kids.

      The reply, “well, you chose to take on that expense” is exactly the privatizing profit/publicizing risk mentality, and it leads straight to iniquity and oppression. No exaggeration.
      (I’ll stop before I get too salty).

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I chose to become a parent. I chose to take on the expense of daycare and clothes and food and shelter and eventually higher education if that’s what she wants. I sure as hell didn’t choose to have a 3 year old during the middle of a pandemic, and I didn’t opt in to having asthma and her developing food allergies, both of which make our household high risk and mean she can’t go to daycare until there’s a vaccine. If my employer weren’t so understanding, I totally would have to drop out of the workforce to care for her because I’d kind of like to stay alive. I didn’t sign up for that choice. No one did.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          So yeah, I agree with you Foila. Your last paragraph really resonated with me and I appreciate you saying it.

        2. jenkins*

          Yeah. I have already left two jobs (long before the pandemic) because becoming/being a mother made them unsustainable. I planned on it getting a little easier as the kids got older. It never crossed my mind that two healthy, able, school age children might need full time care from either me or a provider that would charge me, because that’s not how anything has ever worked in my lifetime or my parents’ lifetimes.

          This isn’t your garden variety suck, this is a very specific suck that is going to force women out of work. We’re not talking about a general Covid relief fund that’s being given only to parents because parents are better, or something. We’re talking about an employer retaining their employees.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Yes, exactly! Many parents plan to accommodate the preschool years, either with daycare, shift work, or just one parent taking a few years off. That’s what we did. From the moment we got engaged, we started putting my salary straight into savings and living strictly off his, so I could stay home or only work part time once the kids arrived, without it being a huge upheaval for our finances. But we always planned for me to go back to full-time work once the kids were in school. Except now, they’re not in school. And we still have the added expenses of school-age kids without my added income.

      2. Foila*

        Also I meant “inequity” rather than “iniquity”, but I guess iniquity works too.

    2. Littorally*

      Yeah, this seems to happen here every time parenthood is brought up. There are a contingent of commenters who feel that any leeway, stipend, benefit, or flexibility extended to parents is coming directly out of their own pockets and working time, and get very aggressive on the subject. It’s one of the few areas where people seem to really struggle to be civil here.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s why I don’t describe myself as childfree even though I don’t have kids and have no plans to have any any time soon. That whole movement is just hateful toward parents and kids. It has nothing to do with celebrating or supporting people who chose not to have children.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I’ve noticed that as well. It’s become very anti-child, instead of supporting those who don’t or can’t have kids.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          It’s so strange to me. I have always wanted children and was overjoyed when we had our miracle child who according to my doctors shouldn’t be here. I also understand why people wouldn’t want children and respect those decisions because we all have different wants and needs regarding how we live this one life we are given. I expect to be offered the same consideration, because again we all make our own choices based on what’s best for our own specific circumstances. I think we should all support each other as best we can. Lord knows the world has enough troubles of its own without adding more to them.

        3. jenkins*

          I never know what I can do or say in the face of some of the childfree stuff. I hate social pressure to have children, I don’t think anyone should have a child they don’t want (for their sake and the child’s, what a nightmare that would be), and I *don’t* think childfree people should have to work every holiday while I go home to my kids or anything like that. I know people get worn down by this stuff. But there’s no reciprocal willingness to believe that I might know what I’m talking about regarding things parents do/don’t need or can/can’t do. (I mean, I do remember being a woman without children too – life before babies hasn’t become a total blank to me.) So often I turn out to be arguing with someone who thinks three year olds should be able to sit silently because they’re as smart as dogs, or something like that, and who isn’t prepared to countenance the idea that having determinedly avoided being involved with childrearing, they don’t know what childrearing entails. It’s exhausting.

          1. jenkins*

            (Sorry, I should have said *sometimes* there’s no reciprocal willingness yada yada, because a lot of childfree people have been perfectly reasonable on this and other threads!)

    3. RedBlueGreenYellow*

      Right? My company pays essential workers who have to come into the office time and a half to help compensate them for their extra risks during the pandemic. Those of us working from home could have resented it, but all I’ve seen is people being grateful that they are able to stay at home. It doesn’t hurt me in any way to have someone else get a benefit. Instead, it makes me even happier to work at my company, because it shows care for the people who work here.

    4. Tanyushka*

      Also, I’d rather not use our extra PTO for long term illness. I don’t talk about people having surgery is getting this “great” benefit.

    5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Let’s just call a spade a spade here, shall we? The people who have a major issue with this, even after recognizing that it allow parents to be productive in a way that should eliminate some of the parent/non-parent disparities at work, are people who are bothered by how their childfree status affects how they’re perceived. For them, it’s not enough to level the playing field because they assume that they’ll still be at some sort of disadvantage with having their lives seen as less valuable or less mature.

      We should just call this out for what it probably is, because it starts a different sort of conversation that forces a lot more people to be honest.

      1. Taniwha Girl*

        Yes. Every time parenthood comes up, people without children who are sensitive about that fact show up and say horrible selfish things to people who have children. It’s clearly more about projecting their own insecurities than about the actual issue at hand. If not having a child has become key to your identity, maybe just take a step back from any topics about working parents, because you’re not seeing it objectively.

  38. Hiya*

    #3 it’s also time to really push getting someone hired for that empty position. It shouldn’t take a year to fill a position no matter how “difficult “. If someone really can’t be hired than expectations need to be changed, not just expect everyone to take up the slack for that long.

    1. OP #3*

      Yes, we know! It’s a little more complicated than I was able to include in my email and I hesitate to say more for anonymity, but trust me when I say, we’ve all been actively recruiting and had numerous interviews that didn’t pan out.

      1. Hiya*

        Then expectations need to be reset. You (and your team) can’t be expected to fill that gap for over a year now. A few months, sure. But over a year something has to be done other than spreading everyone too thin

    2. blackcat*

      Someone once offered me the analogy:
      If you can’t find a unicorn, maybe you just need to figure out how to make do with a horse.

  39. Sled dog mama*

    #5 last fall I had to turn down 2 Scheduled in person interviews and a temp position that wanted me to start in a week (normal in my field for temp positions to be start as soon as you can get here).
    When I called to tell one of the interviews that I was withdrawing from consideration because I had taken another position her response was “I told management we’d loose you if we had to wait that long to interview you.”
    Having to turn down an interview is a good thing it means you are well qualified for more than one position and your materials are getting noticed.

  40. LogicalOne*

    #1. “Never have I ever” is such an outdated game. Is your boss recording these Zoom calls? Is your coworker trying to get you drunk for other reasons like to spill the beans on something or? Hopefully it’s just for this week only and doesn’t become a regular thing. I would sit this one out and make up an excuse that you can’t attend. Hopefully others opt out and it’s a hint that some are just not interested in playing this game. Or you could pretend you’re having connection issues or tech issues which “prevent” you from attending or being able to stick around. Tech issues is something you can control so it would be a valid “excuse”. Good luck with this. And if anything, since it’s a work related social gathering, it may stay on a professional level? Wishful thinking but ya never know. Careful what you say though because these are people I imagine you see daily and so you don’t want to burn bridges or make professional relationships awkward. There’s always that one person that takes things a little too far.

  41. Tanyushka*

    OP 1, i have played a clean version of this game where you just drop fingers and go out if you get all of them: Never have I ever been to Hawaii, skydived, that kind of thing.

    I actually was in a treatment center for eating disorders where you play games at the table to make it better and when this first came up I was like…um, what? Unfortunately, no drinking at meals in ED treatment :P

  42. Anon Anony*

    #3 could have been written by my coworker. They solved it by taking a day off here and a day off there instead of multiple days off at a time. So they may take a Friday off and have a long weekend. It doesn’t entirely fix burn out, but it seems to have made them happier and it doesn’t harm the work because it’s only a day at a time and it saves them having to document everything (when they don’t have time to document).

  43. Coverage Associate*

    On the childcare stipend, if you offer it, please figure out a way not to overly bombard everyone with messages about it. It’s hard on those struggling with infertility. (We’re getting about daily work emails about the child care issues, and I haven’t figured out how to opt out.)

    1. TTDH*

      If OP2 is able to make this a more general dependent care benefit, it could help with this messaging too. I hope your employer can find a way to make those messages opt-in rather than opt-out.

  44. Koala dreams*

    #3 It’s very thoughtful of you to want to plan your days off in advance with your boss. I just want to add that if you have sick leave, it’s possible to use it for burn out (and other illnesses). You can then have a meeting with your boss about work planning when you feel better and have returned to work. Also, if the burn out gets worse or not gets better, please get help from a healthcare provider. Health is important.

    Take care! I hope you feel better soon.

  45. Frankie Bergstein*

    I used to feel resentful towards my colleagues who had kids because I felt like I was always scheduling around them, doing their projects when they went on family leave, or accommodating them in some way. Then, I realized that maybe the issue wasn’t them/their kids, but that they were setting boundaries at work. I wasn’t setting boundaries. As I start the long, slow process of setting boundaries, I don’t feel this resentment anymore. Boundary-setting – as you imagine – has helped with a lot more areas.

    I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone who is objecting to helping folks cope with parenting and working during this pandemic, but it was for me.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I think boundaries is a great thing to point out here. I lacked them in several areas (and still actively work on them) and one big eye opener for me was that most of my over-commitment was about my expectations of myself, not others expectations of me.

      I also realized at some point over past 20 years that those times I thought I was getting worked piled on me or was getting stuck with travel so parents didn’t “have” to travel wasn’t the case at all. It was more about seniority, not children (or lack thereof).

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I completely agree with the boundary-setting issue – both in terms of the degree of boundary setting and how people choose to communicate their boundaries. For me it’s something that was a lot worse in a workplace where certain people were awkwardly overt about using their family status to justify their boundaries. I’ve generally felt a lot more comfortable about setting boundaries when on teams where there weren’t any parents who constantly made everything about their children. Like, we had a fair bit of flexibility, so there was no need for parents to use the parent trump card.

      It’s challenging to push back against, but it’s really a lot easier for everyone to set boundaries when you uphold a culture of “everyone’s life outside of work has value”.

  46. George*

    I have kids. Summer camps were completely closed. I hired a nanny. It was a LOT more expensive. However, we had a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, which helped. My company somehow managed to get it set up so we could CHANGE our elections mid-year due to COVID. For both dependent and health care accounts (similar to a qualifying life event – it had to go in the appropriate direction, be documented, etc). This might be a good way to go – or set up a DCFSA if the company doesn’t have one. They are typically used for children under 13 or for the disabled (older child or adult). I would seek guidance on this – I’m not 100% up to speed on the details.

    This would be a good general benefit to have, and are fairly standard in the US.

    As for the whole kids vs no-kids thing: it’s like having employer-provided bagels in the office – not everyone CAN eat them (religious restrictions, celiac, etc), not everyone will WANT to eat them (prefer something else, whatever). Yet, few people get as upset about bagel-type benefits the way they do about child-related benefits. The point of benefits is to obtain and retain quality employees – not everyone will use every benefit.

  47. Nancy Hammond*

    #3 Take your time off. You have earned it. It is part of your compensation. You do not owe it to this company, or any company, to sacrifice yourself on the altar of their success or survival. If they can’t get along without you for a week or two, better for them to find that out now, rather than wait for it to become a crisis. What would they do if you got another job, or got sick or hurt, or won the lottery? As Charles De Gaulle said, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” They can’t manage without you until they have to, and then they will.

  48. gawaine42*

    OP2: Do you already have a dependent care FSA? That’s a tax effective way to handle this (as opposed to a stipend, which is potentially additional taxable income), and the IRS has loosened rules on changes to them.

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