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Fri., May 11, 2012 9:00am EDT (Reuters) — The word "easy" is rarely used to describe motherhood, especially given the challenges working moms face juggling careers and children.

So how can you make it easier for the mothers at your company? Here are five innovative ways companies in this year's Best Small and Medium Workplaces list from Great Place to Work Institute provide support and flexibility to working moms.

1. Support women who want to become mothers. Sometimes, the most difficult part of being a mother is becoming one. Top-ranked employers help aspiring mothers in a variety of ways, including offering time off or reimbursing adoption expenses. In addition, 14 of the 25 top companies offer health plans that cover fertility treatments. Eileen Fisher, the New York-based clothing company, even went beyond its usual infertility benefits when the need arose. The company learned that two employees wanted to use egg donors, but the process was outside the infertility treatment benefit and meant substantial out-of-pocket expenses. Eileen Fisher decided to provide a $15,000 bonus to each woman to help cover expenses, and it subsequently added an egg donor subsidy to the benefits package.

2. Help new moms through the first few months. Employers know a new baby means lack of sleep, lots of crying and plenty of extra work. To help ease the stress, some go beyond the standard family-leave policy. In fact, 22 of the top companies offer additional paid days off, typically between 20 and 30. Some even offer more than two months extra.

Other companies help pay for support services. McMurry, a Phoenix-based marketing communications company, gives new mothers an $800 allowance for house cleaning, home health visits, meals, lactation consulting or other services.

3. Make the workplace hospitable for nursing mothers. Twenty-one of the top-rated employers offer new mothers a dedicated lactation room. Holder Construction, an Atlanta-based construction services firm, decided to upgrade its "mother rooms" with several enhancements after polling its working mothers. It began by moving them to larger, more comfortable spaces and installing refrigerators solely for storing breast milk. The company also added a dedicated room thermostat, a TV and leather recliners selected by the mothers.

4. Ease the child care juggle. Customers and children rarely coordinate their schedules, inevitably leading to times when a mother needs to be in two places at once. The top-ranked employers try to minimize such conflicts. FatWallet, a Beloit, Wis.-based online discount clearinghouse, began offering "mom hours." The schedule allows working mothers to drop kids off at school and be back home when the school day ends. When schedules collide for employees at Snagajob, a Richmond, Va.-based online job search company, it pays for back-up child care — up to three days per year.

5. Assist employees in caring for their own mothers. More employees are not only taking care of children, but they’re also responsible for elderly parents and relatives. Responding to this trend, a growing number of top-rated employers — 10 in the latest ranking — provide eldercare benefits. For example, CustomInk, a T-shirt and apparel company based in Tysons Corner, Va., offers employees a dependent-care flexible spending account, which allows them to set aside $5,000 pre-tax for eldercare expenditures.

Intuitive Research, a Huntsville, Ala.-based aerospace company, provides a free 45-minute individual consultation with elder care experts, discounts on caregiver services, and four eldercare seminars annually for both employees and their family members. The company also trains managers on eldercare issues, including best practices on how to supervise eldercare providers.

© 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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