Employers Boosting Efforts to Meet Workers’ Child Care Needs

More U.S. employers are implementing programs to meet the childcare needs of working parents of young and school-age children, according to a survey of 553 employers conducted in September by Willis Towers Watson.  These initiatives are being taken to combat rising stress or burnout among these employees. 

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of respondents report rising stress is a significant workforce challenge. Over half (55%) are facing higher mental health-related claims and one in four employers (25%) is seeing a rise in attrition due to increased caregiving responsibilities.  40% of organizations report difficulty sustaining their productivity because of employees’ increased caregiving responsibilities.

The survey found that while most employers (74%) believe supporting these employees is a top priority today, less than four in 10 (39%) agree that their current programs and policies to support them are effective.  In response, many employers are offering flexible work schedules:

  • Nearly all companies (97%) are providing flexible work hours.
  • More than three in four employers (76%) allow employees to work reduced schedules or hours. Among those, a tenth (10%) will maintain pay and benefits, nearly a quarter (23%) will reduce pay and benefits while 43% will reduce pay but maintain benefits.
  • More than half (57%) of employers are offering unpaid caregiver leave while 54% offer other unpaid leave, such as a voluntary furlough, as options for employees who are unable to fully perform their job due to caregiving responsibilities. Unpaid leave with job protection is an option provided by 52% of employers, while 26% provide paid caregiver leave.

Nearly half of the surveyed organizations are planning or considering changes to their benefit offerings.  Initiatives undertaken include:

  • Three in 10 employers (30%) offer access to backup childcare services; another 30% are planning or considering doing so.
  • More than a quarter of employers (27%) provide discounts or subsidies for childcare centers, tutoring or other educational resources; another 22% are planning or considering offering these discounts and services.
  • 22% of employers offer company-subsidized backup childcare days; another 20% are planning or considering implementing this benefit.
  • 22% of employers provide concierge services to address broad sets of needs; another 23% are planning or considering offering these services.
  • 13% of employers provide offerings that support the formation of learning pods, tutoring or other school-focused needs; another 28% are planning or considering these offerings.
  • 26% of employers have implemented or are considering offering a subsidy to an employee’s dependent care spending account for childcare expenses with 29% offering or considering discounts or subsidies for technology and supplies required for virtual learning.

More employers are also offering paid parental leave—including maternity leave, paternity leave, and adoption leave—according to parallel research studies conducted by SHRM and Oxford Economics between mid-November and mid-December 2019. Over half of employers (55%) now offer paid maternity leave, 45% offer paid paternity leave, and 35% provide paid extended family care leave. Offering paid leave has strategic benefits such as the ability to attract talent (58%), retain employees (55%), foster employee health and wellness (61%), and foster employee engagement (60%).

Most companies expect their paid leave benefits to remain the same or increase over the next two years.