Currently, about 40% of people in the U.S. workforce are parents whose kids are under 18 years old. With soaring childcare costs and limited government assistance, many organizations know it’s important to support working parents more fully. However, no standards have been established that define the kind of benefits these employees should receive.
While some companies provide comprehensive perks like paid family leave, free on-site childcare, lactation support, and family health care, others offer nothing. And sadly, research reveals that 44% of working parents think their employer does not care about their family’s financial wellbeing.
Still, one question remains on employers’ minds: Will providing more benefits and policies for parents lead to better business outcomes? New research says yes.
Key Facts About Today’s Working Parents
Earlier this year, an UrbanSitter study explored the challenges working parents are facing. These findings underscore the impact of seismic changes that are redefining modern organizations.
1. Parents Are Struggling to Adjust
From pandemic health concerns to remote work demands — and now return-to-office requirements — working parents continue to struggle as they navigate ongoing work trends. Now, unfortunately, the situation has reached an abysmal low:
- Last year, 46% of working parents missed 10 or more work days to address caregiving issues.
- Many attribute these missed days to family needs arising from a particularly strong surge in cold, flu, RSV, and COVID-19 cases during the previous fall and winter.
- Additionally, an alarming 52% of working parents say they or their partner have had to make career changes due to caregiving issues.
2. The Stress is Showing
Hands down, for working parents, the need to juggle work and home responsibilities is the number one cause of stress. Caregiving issues and financial strain round out the top three sources of stress. No wonder nearly half (46%) of working mothers, a quarter of their partners, and more than 1 in 10 children are currently seeking therapy.
3. Federal Funds Are Running Dry
Adding further fuel to the fire, the government pull-back of pandemic relief childcare assistance in September is projected to cause 3.2 million children to lose childcare due to program closures.
This so-called “Childcare Cliff” and its ripple effects will have widespread implications. From parents being forced to quit or reduce hours so they can care for their children, to the financial impact it will have on organizations that lose valuable contributors, the drain on U.S. talent is bound to be felt across the employment landscape.
What Working Parents Need
Despite these gloomy statistics, our research suggests a clear path forward. When employers invest in benefits and policies to support working parents the situation improves. Specifically, absenteeism declines, productivity increases, employees feel supported, loyalty improves, and company culture gets a boost.
For example, when caregiving benefits are available:
- Working parents miss 68% fewer workdays.
- 77% of new parents return to work after childbirth, significantly surpassing the industry average of 57%.
What’s more, 87% of survey participants said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they had access to caregiving benefits.
Ignoring the data – and the resounding call for comprehensive support – is no longer an option. Simply put, businesses that prioritize working parents’ needs will attract top talent and retain a more dedicated workforce.
5 Strategies for Employers to Support Working Parents
1. Prioritize Childcare Benefits and Stipends
Studies show that working parents desire childcare benefits more than any other financial reward — even performance-based bonuses or 401(k) contribution matching. This means employers should offer whatever childcare options they can reasonably afford.
Programs can include access to trusted in-home care or third-party centers, or even stipends managed through a reimbursement program. Various solutions are available to employers, so any company can implement a program that aligns with its budget and workforce preferences.
2. Embrace the Power of Flexibility
Employers can make a tremendous difference by offering working parents more freedom to determine the best way to balance work and family demands.
For instance, offering flexible schedules enables parents to choose work hours that suit their family’s needs. This gives them the ability to participate in school activities and manage doctor appointments without jeopardizing their work commitments.
3. Respond to Remote Work Preferences
Many parents strongly prefer remote work options over full-time return-to-office mandates. When this is the case, hybrid work models can be a viable compromise.
Numerous companies are finding success with flexible schedules based on 1-2 days per week in the office. Others are experimenting with more creative structures. For example, some alternate 1-2 in-office weeks with 1-2 remote weeks, so parents can more closely align their schedules with school holiday weeks.
4. Innovate with a 4-Day Workweek
Other non-traditional work arrangements are highly attractive to talent right now. For example, the 4-day work week is gaining momentum among many employers.
To understand why this strategy is becoming more mainstream, consider the case of online thrift store, ThredUp. Since the company moved to a 4-day workweek in 2021, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
A year later, 93% of the company’s workforce said their overall productivity had increased. In addition, the retention rate among corporate employees reached 96%. Plus, 60% of newer employees said the shorter workweek “tipped the scale for them” when choosing to work for ThredUp over other companies.
5. Offer More Holistic Support
Expanding care benefits to include a broader spectrum of services can further ease the burden working parents face. For example, assistance with tutoring, pet care, senior care, and household needs such as housekeeping and errands helps parents stay focused and more productive when they’re working.
What’s more, this more expansive approach not only benefits working parents, but also non-parent employees who are caring for pets or elderly family members.
A Final Note on Supporting Working Parents
In a world where the demands of home and work have intensified, employers must acknowledge the critical role they play in working parents’ lives. By taking tangible steps to provide comprehensive support, businesses can create an environment that nurtures the wellbeing of working parents and also helps their organizations thrive.
Employers that invest in these strategies are seeing tangible benefits, with increased employee retention, productivity, innovation, and overall business performance. The choice is clear. Now is the time for employers to set the course for a brighter future by empowering working parents to succeed.