Business, Make it Your Problem

February 21, 2018

Takeaways

1 in 2 working parents say the decision to leave the workforce was due to a lack of childcare services and support.
Take action, but don’t rush to provide support without having a good understanding of the needs of your employees.

If 50 years ago you asked whether or not a company should take responsibility for helping its employee’s access and find childcare, it’s likely that members of the company’s leadership team would have laughed in your face. Until very recently, caring for young children was considered a family, actually a woman’s, responsibility.

But things are changing. The workforce of today looks quite different.

Today’s Workforce

For a start, women make up nearly half of the American workforce, and 40% of mothers are the primary breadwinner. Two-thirds of children under five now live in homes where both parents work, compared to less than 1 in 10 in 1940. And more and more of these children are being born to millennial parents (7 out of 10) who have different ideas about the workforce and the how they manage their work-life balance.

Leading employers have identified this shift and recognize that acknowledging it is a winning proposition, both for their business and for America’s future.

The Impact

According to a 2015 study by EY, working fathers between the ages of 18 and 36 are more likely to say they are willing to change jobs or careers to better manage work-life demands. What’s more, one third of highly educated and skilled women are still dropping out of the workforce after having children, and 74% say lack of childcare is the reason why. To think that replacing that employee can cost companies up to 150% of that individual’s salary.

Would those same women have dropped out of the workforce if they had proper support when they needed it? Perhaps not. When surveyed, 69% of women say they wouldn’t have taken time off if companies had offered flexible work options such as reduced-hour schedules, job sharing, part-time career tracks, or short unpaid sabbaticals.

These findings are reflected in a new survey on working parent’s attitudes towards childcare, commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. According to the survey, to be released later this Spring, the lack of options is forcing parents to make the difficult decision to leave the workforce, with 1 in 2 working parents saying their decision to stay home with their children was impacted by the lack of childcare services offered by their previous employer and the lack of childcare in their area.

Taking Action

For companies thinking about how to attract and retain talent, these changing demographics pose a challenge. Without the right policies in place, companies risk losing out on highly educated and skilled employees, particularly women.

The changing nature of the workforce and shifting employee expectations provide the business community with a unique opportunity to lead the way in implementing family friendly policies that support their employees and make economic sense for the business’ bottom line.

  • Don’t rush to provide support without having a good understanding of the needs of your employees. Survey your employees to find out what their needs are. Knowing what they want and value will help you find care solutions that work for your company. When Home Depot surveyed their employees, they found that childcare was a top priority for their employees and this data enabled them to address this need in the most effective way. 
  • Not all employees will want the same thing, so be ready to look at a number of options to determine what best suits the company and the needs of your employees. Flexible Savings Accounts and back-up care are great places to start, and companies such as Bright Horizons, KinderCare, and Care.com all provide a number of different options. Family childcare networks provide a great option if your employees work irregular hours.
  • Offering onsite childcare is a large investment and not realistic for many companies, but partnering with other companies provides a unique (and less resource intensive) way to address your employees needs. In Austin, IBM and the Austin Diagnostic Clinic partnered with KinderCare Education to offer near-site childcare for their staff as an alternative to a single onsite center.
  • Employers are a trusted source of information for their employees. Sometimes the best support you can provide is being a resource. Help your employees navigate the challenging world of childcare by providing information and recommendations on high-quality options in your local community. Your state Quality Ratings and Improvement website is a good place to start to find that information.
  • Take the lead: you’ll be rewarded for it. Not only do half of working parents say it’s very important that the business community leads the way in providing access to quality and affordable childcare, they also have a more positive view of those companies that do.

For more information on how you can engage, read out toolkit, Leading the Way: A Guide for Business Engagement in Early Education, join us at one of our roadshow events this year, or contact a member of our team at education@uschamber.com