Do you remember Rodney Dangerfield and his one-liners? His trademark line was, “I don't get no respect!” These days I feel like this could be the catchphrase for any working parent.
On a good day, parents have a lot to balance between work and family. Under the current conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and schools released through the end of the school year, parents are juggling work along with their children’s needs for education, structure, exercise and entertainment, not to mention all their everyday parental responsibilities.
Working parents, a demographic where at least one parent is employed, make up nearly a third of the US workforce. 90.8 percent of families with children have at least one working parent. Amanda Hemm is co-founder of Soutiens, a company dedicated to working parents and their employers. We recently spoke about the need for family-friendly workplace policies.
What is a family-friendly workplace?
According to Hemm, “Family-friendly at the macro-level is the idea that we care about people as whole people and not just as that one side. That starts with putting workplace policies and benefits in place that carry out those values. It’s offering paid parental leave for both partners, pre-conception benefits and benefits that help support the family until the children are adults. It’s looking at lactation spaces and allowing time to do that. It’s having companies recognize these benefits and these policies and implement them at all levels within the company. And it’s having managers who lead with consistency and empathy, genuinely caring about the people that they manage.”
Benefits parents need
The US falls far behind other countries in offering family-friendly workplace benefits. According to a recent study by UNICEF, the US ranked dead last in terms of the paid leave available to mothers and fathers. The study considers family-friendly benefits such as paid leave for both mothers and fathers and childcare from infancy until children reach school age.
“Without paid leave, workers’ time away from their jobs to provide or receive care often comes at a high price. Unpaid time off can throw a family into financial crisis. And for the 40 percent of workers without FMLA protections, unless their employers guarantee they will hold their jobs for them when they need to take time off, taking that time can mean losing their jobs altogether.
In contrast, access to paid leave for new parents has been shown to improve infant and maternal health, engage fathers in care giving, improve women’s workforce participation and earnings, and reduce the use of public assistance in the year after a child’s birth. Access to paid leave for older workers may promote workforce attachment and guard against older workers leaving the workforce at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings and retirement savings. When paid leave exists, businesses see savings in reduced turnover costs. Paid leave would also help promote economic productivity and the GDP by making it easier for women to stay in the workforce.
Paid family leave is only one of several benefits that constitute family-friendly workplaces. Others include:
- Prenatal support and education. Healthy, supported families are more likely to bring healthy babies into the world. Prenatal support and education can ensure that parents have the support they need. In the long run, this can translate to significant savings in employer medical costs that can result from unhealthy or premature babies.
- Backup childcare enables employees to find backup coverage when their regular care falls through.
- Flexible work policies provide options for parents to work from home when children are home sick or when regular caregivers are unavailable. It also contributes to improved quality of life by allowing parents flexibility to participate in their children’s activities.
- Workplace breastfeeding policies and benefits support new mothers. The Affordable Care Act enacted laws providing for time to breastfeed and an appropriate place to do that. Employers may now offer additional benefits such as shipping breastmilk for mothers who travel on business. Providing further resources such as lactation consultants and education can ease the return to work transition for new mothers.
Perhaps, employers will be forced to create family friendly workplaces as they open up post COVID-19. A whole generation of children depend on their parents for the care giving they provide. Let’s show them the respect they deserve with family-friendly benefits that support their extraordinary efforts.