Call it the Summer of Parental Leave Love.
From Virgin’s splashy European expansion to Netflix’s unlimited maternity leave announcement, major companies made major headlines over the past few months as they rolled out employee benefits designed to appeal to working moms. We’re talking takes on takes on takes.
It’s true that the lack of a national policy providing paid parental leave for new moms lends a certain newsworthiness to announcements like these, when companies are stepping up to support working parents in ways the country as a whole has not. The availability of these programs – not to mention the publicity they drum up – can be an effective recruiting strategy, especially in industries that struggle to attract and retain female talent.
Paid leave is the poster child of family-friendly policies, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to supporting working parents. For all the attention on the length of parental leave these companies offer, there’s not enough focus on what comes next – what can be done to help working parents with the expensive, years-long challenge ahead of them.
Yup, child care.
Let’s look at some numbers.
- 58% of working millennial moms told Pew Research being a working mom makes it harder to get ahead at work.
- 70% of parents said the cost of child care has influenced their career decisions, according to Care.com’s second Cost of Care survey.
- 89% of working parents want family care benefits, but 81% say their employers don’t offer any, according to the Cost of Care report.
- 64% of parents worry about their child’s safety every minute of the day, a Care.com member poll found.
- 90% of employees have left work, and 30% cut back by more than 6 hours per week, due to family responsibilities, according to Care.com’s Better Benefits survey.
- 41% of working parents say the lack of work-life benefits hurt work performance, and 62% would leave a job for better work-life benefits, the Care.com survey found.
To connect back to parental leave, consider that 15 percent of American workers having access to paid parental leave and 23 percent of women returning to work within two weeks of giving birth. (And 16 percent of new dads not taking a single day off work around the birth of a child.) What happens when these parents return to work? Someone has to take care of these kids.
For many working parents, child care and work go hand-in-hand. You can’t work without care, and you can’t afford child care – the largest household expense for many American families – if you don’t work. When parents are forced to choose between work and child care, everybody loses.
When working moms drop out of the workforce, they limit their lifetime earning (and spending) potential by 30 percent, according to estimates. Family caregivers often make career concessions, such as turning town promotions or scaling back responsibilities, as they attempt to juggle work and family. Employers, meanwhile, lose tens of billions annually in lost-productivity costs due to care-related interruptions, such as absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.
Companies are catching on. The flying nannies of Wall Street are an extreme example, but many leading employers are finding that providing work-life benefits, such as child care resource and referral and subsidized backup care, are effective ways to attract, retain and engage today’s working parents.
Yahoo and Facebook, for example, provide access to Care.com as an employee benefit to help workers find babysitters, nannies and other child care solutions. Companies like Google, EY, Bank of America, Capital One, Twitter and The GAP also help connect working parents with care solutions.
Access to quality, affordable child care is key to creating a society and workplace that accounts for the needs and realities of a 21st century workforce – one that is nearly half female. To put it plainly, child care is an economic imperative, and that doesn’t get enough play in the broader conversations around paid parental leave in America.
BuzzFeed started to broach the subject of child care after Netflix’s big unlimited leave announcement, so here’s hoping the Summer of Parental Leave Love spurs the next evolution in the important conversations around supporting working parents.