As U.S. workers weigh going back into offices after a long period of working from home, there’s no doubt that employees want to return to an inclusive and parent-friendly workplace. But there are still obstacles in the way of creating a parent-friendly company culture for many businesses. Two things stand out in recent studies: ineffective policies that don’t cater to all employees and a clear lack of child care support.
Employers that are looking to offer existing and new talent a highly inclusive company culture should take into account the wide range of needs for all types of employees, including parents, and make changes to accommodate and offer support in a more inclusive way.
Many US Companies Are Failing to Be Truly Inclusive.
Many companies have increased their attention to diversity and inclusion in recent years, but there is still a lot of work to be done to build a truly parent-inclusive workplace. There’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that many companies aren’t doing enough to support caregivers in the workplace. There also seems to be a bias towards one sector of the labor market in particular: working moms.
New COVID variants have resulted in an uncertain return to the office and continued disruption for working parents and caregivers. As the threat of school and child care closures still loom on the horizon, these employees are continuing to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
Without implementing policies to support these employees, there will be further disruption to the labor market and your business. So what should companies be doing to support caregivers right now?
The Motherhood Penalty
Traditional family leave policies and childcare benefits that companies offered before the pandemic are outdated or often biased towards working moms. It has become increasingly clear over the course of the pandemic that the benefits these employees receive are not flexible enough. Nor, do they provide the kind of leave policies that families and caregivers actually need.
Many employees have no paid leave at all; it is estimated that only 19% of employees currently have access to paid family leave.
Let’s look at working moms in particular. Many women fall victim to the ‘motherhood penalty’ which results in women having to scale back in their career or drop out of the labor market entirely after having a child. The reason behind this can vary, but in a lot of cases, it comes down to not having adequate access to child care and gender inequities in the workplace, especially when it comes to family leave policies.
The ‘motherhood penalty’ can set women back in their careers since not having adequate support as a working parent makes it harder for them to re-enter the workforce after having a baby and harder to participate in leadership roles. This is especially true for women of color.
Child Care Access vs Family Leave
Other ways that U.S. companies have been failing working parents is by providing either inadequate family leave policies or lack of access to childcare. Many in Washington are advocating for more support for parents through legislation, but until Congress can pass bills that truly benefit working families, employers need to step up to fill the void.
Successfully supporting working parents will only work when companies give them all the resources they need to carry out their jobs as employees and parents. This means ensuring that robust family leave policies, maternity re-entering plans, caregiving benefits, and employer-sponsored child care options are in place.
Only then can your business be considered as starting to build a parent-friendly workplace.
Child Care: An Expense or An Investment?
For years, many employers all across the country saw providing benefits like access to affordable child care as an added expense to the company rather than as an investment.
Many working parents have had to subsidize child care themselves or rely on relatives to do it for them, because employers chose not to offer assistance due to the financial savings they could receive annually.
However, choosing not to provide child care support leads to an even bigger expense for companies. When you don’t provide these benefits to your employees – especially those that are caregivers – then you can expect to experience a high employee turnover.
Each employee that leaves comes with added administrative and hiring costs (not to mention the added pressure and stress that is being put on those employees that have to take on the extra workload until a replacement is found).
Another huge cost comes at the expense of the mental health of caregivers. The pandemic saw a huge increase in working parents dealing with mental health issues such as burnout, depression, and anxiety. A lot of this was brought on by feelings of isolation due to having a lack of access to child care services or caregiving support.
Rather than viewing child care support as an expense, companies should view this as one of the biggest investments that you make in your employees. In today’s employment market, there is a pool of highly qualified individuals that are seeking to work for companies that provide support to working parents. If you offer this, then you’ll have competitive leverage over other businesses in your industry.
Additionally, it will help you to retain your best talent and, in turn, your company’s productivity and satisfaction levels. As we all know, when our employees are happy and feel supported in their role, then they are more likely to be engaged and loyal to the company.
How to Create An Inclusive and Parent-Friendly Workplace
In conjunction with Charter, Vivvi has put together a strategy on how companies can build a better future for working parents and an inclusive, parent-friendly workplace.
Companies can no longer deny that flexibility has become the norm post-pandemic. Many working parents are advocating that their companies introduce flexible work arrangements in the form of remote working options and job-sharing opportunities.
Unlike office life, caregiving responsibilities do not conform to the traditional ‘9-5.’ By creating a company culture that embraces flexibility, you can allow employees to carry out their core job roles while also prioritizing important caregiving responsibilities.
When companies introduce hybrid work models and give the option of working asynchronously, they ensure that all employees are able to meet their targets and deadlines while giving them the personal flexibility to care for their families and loved ones.
While the U.S. government weighs whether to implement national mandates that are of benefit to working parents, companies should be willing to make permanent changes within their workplace that benefit all employees. That means offering generous family leave policies or child care support to help working parents to help them balance caregiving without losing income or falling behind in their careers.
Only until employers begin to offer robust and effective benefits that are inclusive of all caregivers will our country begin to see a true difference in building parent-friendly workplaces.
Companies should be intentional in the messaging they give to working parents. By encouraging new parents (including new fathers) to take the time that they need for their families, companies are creating a culture of understanding and empathy. Additionally, companies should make sure that any caregiver that is availing of paid leave is compensated fairly. Putting an end to pay cuts for those that take paid leave is one of the ways to make a true difference in your company.
Lastly, make sure that you build a company culture that acknowledges, accepts, and praises caregiving. The role of a caregiver is not an easy one – regardless of whether it is minding a child or an ill loved one. A company that can truly recognize the roles that these employees do in both their professional and personal lives will be the most successful.
To accomplish this, all workplace policies and benefits need to clearly message this acceptance from the outset – from recruitment all the way through to annual performance reviews. To make a truly caregiver and parent-friendly workplace, implement the following:
- Job share opportunities
- Employee resource groups
- Transition support (especially for working moms returning from maternity leave)
- Training programs for managers on how to avoid biases against caregivers
Vivvi: Helping Employers Become More Inclusive and Flexible
At Vivvi, we are helping employers of all sizes drive change within their organizations to support the needs of working parents and caregivers. We partner with companies of all sizes to make high-quality full-time and backup care more accessible and affordable for your employees.
With flexible offerings and global coverage across campus, in-home, in-office, and virtual care, Vivvi meets the needs of your business and your employees where you are. Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits and ROI of our employer-sponsored child care offerings.