Feds Caring for Children, Family Members Face COVID-Related Stress with Little Support from Agencies

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

A new survey of union members reveals that federal employees who are caregivers are facing emotional and financial stress and lack support from agencies while trying to balance work and home responsibilities. 

According to a worker survey conducted by AFGE, the vast majority of federal employees caring for children or dependent family members say the coronavirus pandemic has substantially disrupted their care arrangements and has resulted in extra expenses. 

Nearly 92% of federal employees with children say their childcare arrangements have been substantially disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while more than 68% of employees caring for dependent family members say the same.  

Arranging for alternative care will mean extra expenses for both employees with children (86%) and those with dependent family members (81.3%), respondents said.  

No support from employers 

Sixty-five percent of employees facing childcare gaps say their agencies have not been supportive, compared to nearly 63% of employees with family care gaps. Roughly four out of 10 workers say their agencies have increased telework, but far fewer have provided workers with flexible hours, liberal leave, or expanded paid family and childcare leave. 

“This pandemic is affecting employees’ work and home lives in a variety of ways. As our survey shows, it is causing emotional and financial stress for many employees who are caring for children or other family members,” AFGE President Everett Kelley said. “Unfortunately, federal workers also report that their agencies are not providing them with the support they need to address these issues.” 

Arranging care for children or dependent family members is having implications on employees’ jobs, the survey shows. Nearly 74% of workers with children and 58.4% of workers with dependents say arranging for care is inhibiting their or a household member’s ability to work. Roughly four in 10 respondents in both groups say they have considered quitting their jobs or retiring to address care gaps. 

AFGE fielded the survey from Aug. 19-28, receiving 1,650 responses from members at many different departments and agencies. It’s a follow-up to a broader survey AFGE conducted earlier in August concerning worker safety during the pandemic. 

Continuation of telework needed 

Our surveys document the significant issues and concerns federal workers are facing in performing their jobs and caring for their families during this unprecedented pandemic, as well as the lack of support being provided by federal agencies.  

As agencies have started recalling employees back to the worksites during the pandemic, AFGE is urging Congress to step in and allow employees to telework as much as possible. 

“Forcing employees to return to worksites before it is safe to do so not only puts employees’ lives in jeopardy but also disrupts care for children and family members,” Kelley said. “We continue to encourage Congress to pass legislation that allows employees to continue teleworking throughout this pandemic, expedites production of protective equipment, improves oversight of how agencies are adhering to health and safety guidelines, and ensures workers through their representatives are included in decisions about returning to worksites.” 

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