Employer Childcare Assistance Now and Looking Ahead

Childcare is not only crucial for the development of young children, but also essential for the millions of working parents with young children. Parents rely on childcare to help them enter, re-enter, or remain in the workforce, but access to affordable, quality childcare is often a significant barrier for many. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, families are experiencing additional challenges in finding, maintaining, and affording childcare that meets their needs. 

Even prior to COVID-19, parents dedicated significant energy and resources balancing their roles at home, in the community, and in the workplace – a theme which has only been exacerbated by the physical, mental, and emotional toll of the pandemic. Parents consider several factors in determining the level and type of childcare solutions that best meet their needs. These factors make up what we have referred to as the “Childcare Equation.” Families now face immense pressure to re-evaluate how to meet their childcare needs. Faced with this burden, families are having to make tough decisions regarding their employment situation. Many working parents are deciding whether or not to leave the workforce, work fewer hours, or switch employers to accommodate scheduling needs.

Cost to Employers

To understand the impact that childcare has on businesses' ability to return to work, the Chamber Foundation conducted two surveys in June/July and October of 2020 of employers from across the country of every size and industry. While adequate childcare access has a significant impact on the income of working parents, it also directly impacts the organizations and businesses that employ them. Parent survey data collected in October indicated that 13 percent of parents are unsure or unlikely to return to the workforce they participated in pre-COVID, with five percent of all parents citing childcare as the reason for not returning to the workforce. While this number is down from 22 percent in June – due to a high number of businesses reopening and returning to work between June and October, it still presents a significant portion of the working parent population and has severe implications for employers. 

As a result, many employers anticipated the potential loss of employees and now are seeing that loss firsthand—approximately 32 percent of employers said they had already seen employees leave since the pandemic, and half of those cited childcare as the reason. COVID-19 has changed the business and talent landscape, and employers must re-think childcare assistance, benefits, and accommodations in these unique times. Thus, employers have an opportunity to demonstrate that childcare supports, through a combination of public and private investments, are good for our businesses, our communities, and our families. 

Understanding Employer Responses

The Chamber Foundation’s employer surveys sought to identify trends across geography, industry, and organizational size. A few of the surveys’ topline findings include:

  • June/July 2020 Survey Takeaways
    • 79 percent of employers have shifted a significant part of the workforce to remote work
    • 40 percent  of employers have offered additional childcare accommodations, assistance, or benefits due to COVID-19
    • 40 percent  of employers are concerned that some of their employees will not fully return to work
    • 1/4 of employers are concerned that some employees will leave the workforce entirely 
  • October 2020 Survey Takeaways
    • 89 percent  of employers feel they are aware of the childcare needs of their employees 
    • 71 percent  of employers feel that they provide adequate support for employees with young children 
    • 20 percent  of employers are currently willing to increase their investment in childcare needs. However, 49 percent  of employers would be likely to provide additional childcare assistance if the government offered supplementary incentives

Furthermore, the Chamber Foundation captured stories of how employers have pivoted quickly in this new landscape. You can watch them below: 

These surveys and stories aim to demonstrate ways that employers have and will continue to support their working parents. As COVID-19 continues for the foreseeable future, we understand that the childcare challenges will only increase and continue to impact all of us. We hope to work towards cross-sector solutions that involve families, business leaders, childcare providers, and policymakers.

**Note:This post is the first in a series of posts about the business community’s investments in early childhood education before, during, and post-COVID-19 pandemic.