Juggling professional and family responsibilities has always been challenging for working parents, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has caused some families to reach a breaking point. As companies begin to bring back employees from working at home and a new school year looms large, working parents are debating daunting issues, and employers can do a lot to ease the stress, according to one workplace authority.
“Childcare is not a new problem for working parents. Most corporations have never offered the options or the support working parents need to ease their childcare struggles. The pandemic has brought this fact to the forefront, as so many families suddenly found everyone at home – and the home became the office, school, and daycare center all at once,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
As cases rise exponentially around the country, parents are increasingly asking themselves how to navigate childcare safely. Should they continue to keep their children home from daycare or school? Should they hire an in-home daycare provider to limit the number of people who come into contact with their children? Will they get into an affordable daycare center (many daycare centers have closed or are limiting the number of children because of social distancing protocols)? What happens if schools and daycare centers close abruptly if coronavirus cases spike? Because hybrid schooling models have children attending school in person only two days per week, what happens on the other days?
“There are employers that approach the problem as though they do not have a responsibility to help working parents because they believe they can fill their positions with childless employees. Those companies need to re-think that. This will damage morale, future recruitment efforts, brand recognition and, ultimately, the bottom line,” said Challenger.
Millions of American workers struggle with daycare issues every day – with little help from their employers – even when they are not working from home and children are in daycare or at school.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, there were 33.4 million families, or two-fifths of all families, that included children under age 18. At least one parent was employed in 91.3% of those families. In families with married parents, 97.5% had at least one employed parent in 2019, and 64.2% had both parents employed.
The financial burden is enormous.