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Supporting Working Parents Isn’t Just the Right Thing to Do — It’s a Business Imperative. We Have Bold Strategies to Help Companies

Seven ways businesses can ease their employees’ caregiving burdens during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis to retain talent and stay competitive.

April 1, 2021

At a Glance

Seven ways businesses can ease their employees’ caregiving burdens during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis to retain talent and stay competitive.

Susan McGotty, Vice President, Future of Work Career Design at Prudential Financial
Developed as part of JFF’s Recover Stronger Corporate Coalition and with endorsement from Coalition companies.
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Being a working parent isn’t easy.

I’ll be the first to admit that. It’s particularly difficult for women, who often shoulder most of a family’s caregiving responsibilities. Working women want to be great mothers, but they also want to do well and succeed on the job, so they can advance in their careers and help their families advance economically. Balancing the two can be difficult. And when you layer on the additional challenges parents have faced during the COVID-19 crisis, it seems nearly impossible. Across the country, parents are struggling to live up to that super person status — looking for ways to care for their families and still have the time to focus on their career pathways and personal well-being.

Corporate leaders must step up to help working parents deal with a longstanding caregiving crisis that has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parents have struggled with a lack of affordable and dependable child care for decades. According to one poll, 83 percent of parents with children under the age of 5 have had difficulty finding reasonable child care options in their communities. And in many states, the cost of child care exceeds that of college tuition. This insufficient child care system is costing working parents $37 billion a year in lost income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity.

And that was before COVID-19 shuttered many schools and day care centers. Like so many other disparities laid bare during the pandemic, the lack of equity for working parents has been magnified over the past year.

Since the onset of the pandemic, 40 percent of working parents have reduced their hours or exited the workforce to care for children. As schools and child care facilities closed in all 50 states, the 23.5 million working parents who don’t have a relative or friend who can provide full-time care in the home scrambled to find solutions. Hourly workers and the 16 percent of working parents who are solo caregivers faced particularly difficult challenges.

The fallout of our current caregiving crisis will reverberate for decades.

Parents who leave the workforce not only immediately lose income; they also tend to make less after they return, which has the ripple effect of reducing their retirement savings and social security benefits. Overall, parents lose up to three or four times their annual salary for every year they are out of the workforce, creating an especially difficult burden for low-income and Black and Latinx families, who may have less wealth to fall back on than white families do.

Working mothers bear the brunt of this crisis. One in four women is considering downshifting her career or leaving the workforce, and as of January 2021, the total number of women who had exited the workforce during the pandemic had exceed 2.3 million, putting the women’s workforce participation rate at 57 percent. Experts fear generations of progress for women in the workforce will be wiped out if the trend continues.

It’s time for visionary corporate leaders to step up.

While the government has a crucial role to play in increasing access to affordable, high-quality child care, private employers must also step up. With COVID-19 disrupting so many established business practices, now is the perfect time for visionary corporate leaders to re-evaluate talent management and benefits practices and come up with innovative new approaches to meeting the needs of working parents.

Reducing employees’ caregiving burdens during and after the COVID-19 crisis is good for businesses. Among other things, offering child care support saves money: The cost of replacing an employee is estimated to range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary when the costs of hiring, onboarding, and training and development are factored in — not to mention, the opportunity cost of operating with an unfilled role. Already, 21 percent of businesses say they have lost employees due to the lack of child care and related employee burnout during the pandemic.

We have solutions for employers.

Fortunately, 74 percent of employers say that supporting working parents is a top priority, and corporate leaders across the country are advancing employee-centered talent practices. However, only 39 percent said they feel their programs and policies are effective. To help our employer partners, we identified seven promising new approaches to supporting working parents.

Our list begins with basic, low-cost practices that all employers can implement right away and builds up to higher-cost, higher-impact options.

Learn More About the Seven Solutions in the Full Article
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