As if the past few months of lockdown haven’t been hard enough for working parents, a new survey shows that returning to work won’t be any easier.
The COVID-19 Reopening the Workplace Survey by Willis Towers Watson, of roughly 550 public, private and non-profit US employers with over 100 employees, showed that less than one-third (32 percent) of employers had, were planning to or were considering having childcare plans in place for working parents returning to work. Further, about half (49 percent) of employers did not offer caregiving navigation resources, 66 percent did not modify performance expectations of employees and 84 percent did not offer onsite or near-site childcare services. Only 23 percent of employers surveyed will enhance their caregiving benefits.
The survey, which was taken the first week of June, proves that working parents have been largely left out of the conversation as companies consider reopening. Recent data shows that more than half of women made workplace/career changes due to childcare needs amidst the pandemic, while over a quarter of parents are planning on taking a break or quitting their job completely, with women being twice as likely as men to quit their jobs following the pandemic.
As the survey proved, the culprit is none other than the need for childcare. With an estimated 40 percent of daycares expected to close permanently post-lockdown and school districts around the nation planning on virtual schooling come fall, working parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
If companies don’t take a family-friendly approach to reopening, it won't just impact working moms. In addition to the attrition costs businesses will face as parents scale back or abandon the workforce, the sheer pandemic-induced anxiety working moms are battling will cost the economy $341 billion. And with women leaving their jobs at alarming rates to take care of their kids, women’s progress altogether is at risk of hitting a roadblock.
It’s up to employers to consider the needs of all of their employees, because reopening the office while parents are without childcare will widen the wage gap, create a less diverse workforce, and change working parenthood for decades to come. The decisions made in the coming months by companies and parents alike will decide the fate of the workforce—and working parents need all the support we can get.