Supporting Working Parents During Covid-19
By: Cindy Hayward
Covid-19 is the gift that keeps on giving. Months ago, we imagined that summer would bring an end to the crisis and life would return to normal in the fall. With the most recent unemployment number at 10.2% (BLS.Gov) and virus numbers at concerning levels, there are a lot of stressed people out there –getting a job if you have been laid off can be complicated – and keeping the job you have may be wearing thin as well.
Also, the change in parent’s support systems - childcare, school, after-school programs, weekend babysitters, and grandparents are no longer a given. In addition to the expense and availability of childcare, working parents are also acting as educators. Last spring, parents looked at this as a temporary situation. As we pass the six month mark, families are beginning to look for more permanent solutions.
So how does the working parent cope with kids during intermittent school closings, a move to 100% remote learning when there is no school, or the cost of full time childcare? According to a new Care.com survey of parents with children under the age of 15, nearly three-fourths, 73%, of parents say they plan to make major changes to their professional lives to accommodate the lack of child care. Parents are feeling like they can have kids or a job…not both.
Women, are especially are affected. Traditionally, women have shouldered much of the childcare burden, with women taking unpaid time off for illness, school holidays and doctors’ appointments. During Covid-19, women have found themselves effectively holding three jobs – their job, their childcare workers job and their children’s teachers’ job. According to a recent survey, 14 percent of women are considering quitting their jobs because of work-family conflicts relating to Covid-19. Organizations have worked hard to promote gender equality in the workplace; women need the support of the organization as well.
In a 2019 study by FlexJobs, 80% of employees said they would be more loyal if they had flexible work options. Common solutions such as part time scheduling, flexible working hours or flextime are possibilities, but in our current situation, do they really address the problem? There is some evidence that employees who use flexible working hours actually work more – amidst the current crisis with stay at home orders, the average American’s workday increased by 40% - basically, people are starting the workday earlier and finishing at the same time.
One solution which could serve as a great option now, with potential long term benefit is job-sharing. Though not a new concept, it has not been widely used. In its application now, it could lessen the need for furloughs or layoffs while accommodating working parents – and later providing work-life balance opportunities favored by Millennials and Gen X workers.
A job share occurs when two employees share one full time job. It requires cooperation and communication, but can allow the organization to retain the best and brightest talent while providing work-life balance during periods when the employee needs it most. For now, a pandemic solution – in the future, situations surrounding childcare, caring for elderly parents, chronic illness or higher education.
The Top 5 Benefits for the Employer
1. You keep two valued employees, with energy and creativity.
2. Greater job coverage – during illness or vacation.
3. Retain talent for future opportunities and succession planning – should one of the team depart or promote, one remains.
4. Broadened skillsets – one partner may possess talents the other does not.
5. Increased productivity of sharing partners.
Additional Programs Implemented by Organizations
PwC has offered a sabbatical option of up to six months at 20% of pay – basically paying for employee benefits. They have also established partnerships with services which provide nannies, tutoring, and in-home childcare discounts.
Goldman Sachs offers its employees an extra 10 days of leave to help them care for children, elderly relatives or homeschooling.
Ally Financial granted $1200 to each employee making less than $100,000 to help cover unexpected costs incurred for working from home. When daycare or adult/elder care arrangements are disrupted, they will cover 30 uses of emergency care and paid caregiver leave for employees caring for an ill family member.
2020 has been complicated, that is for certain. At the end of the day, this year will bring about changes that will be felt well into the future. The agility organizations have displayed in the effort to protect and support employees cannot have been easy. On the bright side, if the year brings about changes which promote a more flexible approach to work schedules and environments, in support of employee work-life balance, then we will have gained something in this year of uncertainty.