Despite recognizing the importance of retaining caregivers in the workforce, 40% of U.S. hiring decision-makers report employees have left their company since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to care for children or other family members, according to a new survey from The Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.
Of those 40% who left companies for care obligations, 27% said it was for children, while 25% left to care for other family members. Substantial proportions say employees have changed their work schedule (37%) and/or reduced the number of hours they work (32%) due to family obligations.
Although the majority of U.S. hiring decision-makers (79%) believe their company is doing just the right amount to help employees balance work with caregiving responsibilities, more than 2 in 3 (68%) say their employees have expressed an interest in having them offer services to help balance caregiving responsibilities.
Notably, only 32% of U.S. hiring decision-makers say one of their company’s most important priorities right now is continually updating programs to accommodate employees who are caregivers, and a similar proportion (33%) say leadership being more flexible in accommodating employees’ schedules and needs will be a permanent effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to working parents specifically, more than 3 in 4 hiring decision-makers (78%) agree it is important to their company to nurture and grow working parent leaders within their organization. Still, only 30% say retaining working parents is one of the most important priorities for their company right now.
And, less than 2 in 5 (38%) say their company offers programs to help employees who are parents stay in the workplace; among those, the most common programs are flexible work schedules/flex-time (52%), telecommuting/remote work (44%) and/or employer-funded/subsidized childcare (36%).
Both Terri Greeno and John Dickey, Express franchise owners in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and Andover, Massachusetts, respectively, say they have seen employees leave jobs in their market where virtual work is not feasible and no dependent care is available.
“Extended family may not be able or willing to help care for children due to their own fears of exposure,” Greeno said. “Without options, employees have to stay home.”
Dickey said employers have been more understanding of altering work schedules or reducing the number of hours at work to accommodate these family obligations.
“I have made these accommodations for my employees, but this isn’t across the board,” he said. “Factory workers can’t work from home.”
Greeno agrees that many companies are going above and beyond to help employees during this time to balance work and caregiving responsibilities by allowing children in the office certain days of the week and offering remote work, unlimited PTO or split shifts, as long as objectives are met.
“It is vitally important for parents to have a role in the workforce and companies definitely encourage it,” she said. “Healthy families make healthy communities and economies.”
Some states are even introducing new legislation to support working parents, such as Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) in Massachusetts. The law allows for up to 26 weeks of paid leave for medical or family reasons like the birth of a child.
“Good companies stress the concept of ‘family first,'” Dickey said. “It’s a balancing act. Our workforce depends on working parents, and companies are doing what they can to keep parents engaged and employed.”
There’s no doubt the last year has been especially challenging for caregivers, Express CEO Bill Stoller said.
“Those companies that figured out how to accommodate this workforce segment, however, helped continue to put food on the table for families and staff essential businesses to keep the economy going,” he said. “Support should continue well beyond the pandemic for caregivers to get the labor force back to full strength and health.”
The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Nov. 16 and Dec. 7, 2020, among 1,002 U.S. hiring decision-makers (defined as adults ages 18+ in the U.S. who are employed full-time or self-employed, work at companies with more than one employee, and have full/significant involvement in hiring decisions at their company). Data was weighted where necessary by company size to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.