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Types of benefits growing

Family benefits come in a variety of forms. Here are some of the things companies are doing: Adoption benefits: Company provides reimbursement for some adoption expenses.

Child-care centers: Company operates a child-care center on site or near site or contracts with an outside provider to operate a center either on a subsidized or non-subsidized basis. In some instances a group of companies form a consortium to contract with a provider.

Child-care financial assistance: Company reimburses employees for part of child-care costs, gives employees vouchers for use at child-care centers or arranges for employee discounts with child-care providers.

Day-care resource and referral: Company provides or contracts with non-profit agency to provide information about quality and availability of day care in response to employee requests. In some cases company representative inspects day-care facilities.

Dependent-care spending accounts: Employees contribute pre-tax dollars to an account that can be used to pay the costs of care for children or elderly dependents. Both company and employee save on Social Security taxes.

Elder-care assistance: Company provides services such as counseling, education and information about retirement and nursing homes to help employees assist their elderly relatives.

Employee assistance programs: Company provides or contracts with an outside firm to provide confidential counseling to

employees with family problems and personal difficulties such as drug and alcohol use, stress, anxiety and depression. The plan often includes coverage for employees' family members.

Family leave (beyond maternity disability leave): Company allows employees to take time off, generally unpaid, to meet family needs, which may include staying with a newborn or newly adopted child or caring for an elderly relative.

Family medical leave: Company allows employees to take time off to care for sick family members. May be paid (employee allowed to use sick days) or unpaid, depending on the company.

Flexible scheduling: Company allows employees to adjust their work hours and days to meet family needs. Possibilities include part-time work, four-day work weeks, job sharing, work at home and schedule adjustments such as earlier or later hours.

Partnership school: Company contracts with school system to provide an on-site school for employees' children, generally in conjunction with a program providing before-school and after-school care.

Sick-child care: Company contracts with provider (usually hospital) to provide care for employees' children who are too sick to go to school or day care.

In some instances, company may provide for in-home care for a sick child. The care may be subsidized by the company.