In the current landscape of the U.S. economy, hiring rates are surpassing quit rates, creating a challenge for employers to retain top talent seeking better opportunities. As organizations navigate this dynamic environment, it becomes crucial to focus on retaining the existing workforce, particularly working mothers who have reentered the job market in record numbers post-pandemic. With 70.4% of women with children under 5 employed as of June 2023, it’s evident that we need to ensure they remain an integral part of our workforce.
The Essential Supports for Working Caretakers
The recent influx of mothers into the workforce can be attributed to two critical factors: flexible work options and increased access to childcare. Remote work and hybrid schedules provided the flexibility required for balancing jobs and caretaking responsibilities. Additionally, federal Covid-19 relief funding of $39 billion in 2021 supported childcare providers, creating more affordable care opportunities.
However, with the return-to-office mandates issued by many employers, there is a growing need for reliable childcare. Unfortunately, the pandemic-era aid supporting these services expired in September 2023, putting around 70,000 childcare centers at risk of closure. This could lead to a significant increase in childcare costs, potentially exceeding 20% of parents’ household income.
Historically, many companies viewed providing childcare support as a fringe benefit rather than an economic necessity. This mindset not only forces caretakers out of the workforce but also results in substantial financial losses for businesses and the country—estimated at $122 billion annually.
Therefore, successful companies in today’s tight labor market will be those that prioritize policies supporting caretakers, as demonstrated during the recent workforce reentry.
4 Keys to Building Caretaker-Friendly Workplaces
Business leaders must recognize childcare as a business-critical issue, with benefits extending to recruitment, retention, productivity, employee engagement, and internal career progression.
1. Provide Child Care Support as Part of Organization-Wide Benefits
Competitive and thoughtful childcare benefits, such as stipends, paid leave, and flexible scheduling, can help employees remain productive amid rising childcare costs. By ensuring accessibility and affordability, companies can successfully recruit and retain staff.
2. Build Flexibility into the Work Culture
Allowing workers, especially those with dependents, to adopt schedules aligned with their unique needs fosters a healthy work-life balance. Emphasizing performance and outputs over office hours is crucial. Recent data emphasizes the importance of a balanced work-life and good working conditions for retention.
3. Ensure All Policies Are Gender Neutral
Implementing gender-neutral policies ensures that all parents, regardless of gender, can balance work and family responsibilities. This promotes an inclusive work environment that supports various types of families.
4. Encourage Transparency Among Senior Leaders About Caretaking Needs
Providing resources alone is insufficient; employees must feel empowered to utilize them without fear of consequences or stigma. When senior leaders openly share their own caretaking needs, such as leveraging flexible work schedules, it sets an example for all parents across different organizational levels.
Supporting working caretakers brings numerous benefits, from improved recruitment and retention to addressing labor shortages. However, the paramount goal is to ensure that our current work landscape considers the needs of everyone. As working mothers form a larger portion of the workforce, now is the opportune moment to eliminate persistent barriers by integrating caretaker support into the core of our workplaces.