Employers who want to support working parents start with the standard benefits package. Parents need affordable healthcare for themselves and their children, flexible schedules to handle last-minute PTA meetings and unexpected visits to the pediatrician, and a dependent care flexible spending account to save some dollars when paying for qualified childcare expenses.
Then, you have companies that realize they can do more for parents. Parental leave for mothers and fathers, lactation services for new moms and subsidized on-site childcare are slowly becoming more commonplace as employers demonstrate their commitment to attracting and retaining parents. These valuable benefits have been around for decades, but do not solve the core problem of finding affordable, quality childcare that most working parents face. Rethinking and expanding these benefits is part of the reason we founded Arvorie.
Leadership is critical. Companies that offer better childcare options for working parents can become employers of choice within their industries. Yes, childcare benefits boost productivity and lower turnover for your workforce's key demographics, but it is also the right thing to do.
A growing number of parent-friendly companies are creating best practices for benefits. Arvorie wants to evaluate how much their benefit programs help working parents. The goal is to identify companies closing the childcare affordability gap and benchmark the progress by industry. Employers should take these three steps to be a leading parent-friendly company:
Get the Basics Right First
When it comes to benefits, nearly everyone – including working parents – wants reasonably priced health insurance first. From there, the financial needs become more individualized. Many parents of young children, for example, would prioritize access to affordable childcare over retirement benefits.
Companies should at least provide the basics when it comes to supporting parents. Among large and midsize employers, only 59% offer dependent care FSAs, 4% offer backup care and 4% offer on-site childcare centers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The number of employers who offer dependent care FSAs has declined by nearly 10 percentage points since 2017. That drop may be the unintended result of the Tax Cuts and Job Act passage in late 2017. Some employers feared that the reforms would eliminate the tax breaks for both employers and working parents, but that did not happen.
Flexible schedules are becoming more critical as employers deal with the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. However, the nature of work at many companies is not compatible with flexible schedules, which leads to an even greater need for reliable childcare.
Roughly 75% of working parents have children staying at home with a parent during work hours, compared to 52% before the pandemic.
Focus on Where the Needs Are
Millennial parents are reshaping what benefits are offered because more women work full time and have children later in life. Increases in mother's rooms (up 15% in the past five years), lactation support services (up 6%), and returnship programs for parents re-entering the workforce (now 12%, up from 10% since 2015), according to SHRM.
Roughly one in four organizations allow workers to bring their children into work if there is a childcare emergency. However, critical childcare benefits that give access to reliable childcare still are often underinvested.
Companies that have invested in childcare benefits have seen fantastic results (employee engagement and retention). Childcare is more expensive than public college in more than 30 states and finding affordable day-to-day children is often the most significant financial challenge working parents face.
Build a Comprehensive Program for Parents
No one benefit represents a solution that leads to reliable, flexible, affordable day-to-day childcare for all working parents. Parents need access to provider referrals, discounts to relevant providers, summer childcare, employer-based care sharing arrangements and afterschool programs.
Employers should aim to create an integrated package of childcare benefits and other parenting resources. Employee resource groups and financial advice targeted at parents can enhance parent-friendly benefit programs.
Take our assessment to learn your strengths and weaknesses to become a parent-friendly company and an employer of choice.