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How to Beat the Care Crunch and Support Working Parents

The child-care services industry is still down 126,700 workers, as recently addressed by Vice President Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. This is a more than 10 percent decline from pre-pandemic levels. To put it into perspective, the hiring situation is currently more extreme in child-care than in restaurants, and without enough employees, day cares are turning away children and leaving working parents to scramble.  

It’s important companies consider working parents who may fall victim to the “care crunch” who are facing shortages in childcare options, whether it be due to daycare closures caused by COVID-19 outbreaks, limited-to-no availability, or day cares that have shut their doors for good given the talent shortage.  

If proper accommodation and support are not available to these professionals, an increased number of scheduling conflicts may force some to forfeit their jobs in order to care for their families, along with the other 1.6 million parents of children under 17 who haven’t rejoined the labor force since the beginning of the pandemic. 

 In the struggle to find adequate childcare, increased support and communication between employer and employee will be essential. Below, we share several ways employers can help support working parents in today’s changing world. 


Employee Support Groups 

An effective way to help support working parents, especially during a season of transition such as returning to the office, is by creating a community of peers who understand and can walk through these challenges together. While an individual’s team and management are always a resource, gathering a group of other working parents experiencing similar challenges can help with emotional support, as well as tactical support of ideas and advice to better structure their days. 

These groups could also be a resource for group childcare where multiple parents pitch in to help organize childcare or set up carpools and after-school care among coworkers to help distribute workload.  

Benefits 

There are several benefits a business may already be providing that add great value to working parents and communicating how to maximize them could help retain some working parents. These include: 

  • Employee assistance programs: To support working parents, employers can promote stress management solutions and mental wellness benefits like therapy, confidential counseling, referral services, financial guidance, health assessments and more.  

  • Flexible spending accounts/Dependent Care Accounts: In some cases, flexible spending accounts can be used to pay for child-care expenses, co-pays and more. Reminding employees of this and other ways to utilize their pre-tax dollars may help ease some financial concerns. 

  • Reimbursement for daycare: If many employees within the organization have young children, offering reimbursement or stipends for childcare may be a wonderful way of supporting employees and retaining working parents.  


Communication

Especially as many employees return to the office, communication between HR and management teams and staff will be essential to determine how scheduling conflicts can be handled and what flexibility could be offered to employees. Preemptive communication between management and employees can also help avoid scheduling blunders as children’s schedules or childcare availability shifts.
  
While simple, the support and acknowledgement leaders can provide working parents by checking in on how they are feeling and communicating about how they are managing both their work and home responsibilities can be powerful in helping parents feel supported. When leaders regularly ask about their employees’ children, they can not only form a deeper connection with their people, but also know when additional challenges or stressors come up that could impact their work. Being in-the-know may be essential for retaining and supporting productive employees with a healthy and happy work and home life. 

Time Flexibility 

One of the most needed accommodations for working parents is flexible schedules. Especially without adequate childcare support or after-school programs, parents of young children may need certain hours of the day to pick up or drop off their children at school or to be home supervising their children. The timing of when and how long the employee needs to be available for their child will vary, but it is important for management to listen to the needs of their employees and determine what flexibility could be offered to them, if possible, and how responsibilities or schedules can adjust. 

For households with both parents working full time and sharing childcare responsibilities, some employees may be able to shift their schedules so they complement their partner, with one parent available for the child when needed. This may mean employees work nontraditional hours or perhaps work part of the day in-office and part from home.

The pandemic changed the terrain of business across the U.S., and while balancing work and childcare has been a challenge for many professionals for decades, it has become even more strenuous and uncertain in the last 18 months. Employers need to be flexible and invest in new ways of supporting their people in order to retain working parents.

Are you adding talent to help support your team? Let us help! Get connected here. 
 

 

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