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Survey Report

Supporting Employees with Young and School-aged Children Survey

Highlights of key findings, United States

September 21, 2020

Increased caregiving needs create new work challenges. We examined how employers are helping their employee caregivers of young and school-age children.
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About the survey respondents

Research findings are based on responses from 553 organizations in the United States employing 8.7 million employees. The survey fielded between September 9 and 11, 2020.

Respondent profile:

  • 51% for profit, publicly traded
  • 29% for profit, private
  • 19% nonprofit/government
Breakdown of participants by industry: 21% manufacturing, 12% public sector and education, 17% health care, 12% IT and telecom, 14% financial services, 8% energy and utilities, 9% wholesale and retail, 5% public sector and education.
Respondents by industry


Employers strive to better support childcare needs of working parents

The pandemic has taken a toll on working parents who are under pressure to juggle the demands of their jobs and expanded childcare responsibilities. Our latest survey, which fielded the week of September 7, examines the support that employers offer to employee caregivers of young and school-age children. While most employers (74%) view supporting these employees as a top priority, only around two-fifths (39%) believe that their programs and policies are effective. However, employers are taking steps to better meet the needs of working parents.

Increased childcare responsibilities are contributing to rising levels of employee stress, making it challenging for employers to sustain productivity and remote worker engagement. Nearly nine out of ten employers (79%) report rising workforce stress or burnout among employees and around two-thirds (55%) are facing higher mental health-related claims. In addition, two-fifths of employers (40%) report difficulty sustaining productivity and find it challenging to sustain remote worker engagement because of employees’ increased caregiving responsibilities.

In response, employers are seeking to better understand the childcare needs of their workers and provide support that includes backup childcare, reduced schedules and flexible hours as well as various leave benefits. To enable greater flexibility for working parents, they are also determining what work can be done remotely and updating or developing flexible work policies.

With increased remote work and schooling, employers are moving quickly to implement sustainable solutions to offer employees relief over and above flexibility in work schedules.”

Rachael McCann | Willis Towers Watson

Highlights at a glance

Understanding employees’ caregiving needs

To better understand the caregiving needs of their employees, employers have taken or plan to take the following actions:

  • Analyze employee data 50%
  • Conduct a broad-based employee survey 43%
  • Conduct virtual focus groups 27%

Offering a range of caregiving solutions and benefits

Recognizing that there is no one perfect childcare solution, employers are providing working parents with various support options:

  • Backup childcare. Almost a third of employers (30%) offer backup childcare while a similar percentage are planning or considering providing this benefit. Over a fifth (22%) of employers offer backup childcare days and 20% are looking to add this benefit.
  • Flexible work hours and reduced schedules. Nearly all employers (97%) provide flexible work hours and slightly over three-quarters (76%) allow reduced schedules/hours.
    Among those that allow reduced schedules, a tenth (10%) will maintain pay and benefits, nearly a quarter (23%) will reduce pay and benefits while over two-fifths (43%) will reduce pay but maintain benefits
  • Caregiver and other leave. Almost three fifths (57%) of employers offer unpaid caregiver leave while over half (52%) offer unpaid leave with job protection. Slightly over a quarter (26%) provide paid caregiver leave. Moreover, almost a third (30%) of employers offer additional paid sick leave.
  • Educational support. Thirteen percent of employers provide offerings that support the formation of learning pods, tutoring or other school-focused needs; over a quarter (28%) are planning or considering these offerings.
  • Subsidies. Nearly three in ten employers have implemented or are considering offering a subsidy to an employee’s dependent care spending account for childcare expenses (26%) or providing discounts or subsidies for technology and supplies required for virtual learning (29%).

Enabling flexible work arrangements

To enable greater flexibility for employees with caregiving responsibilities, employers have taken the following actions:

  • Roughly two-thirds (67%) have determined what work can be done remotely.
  • Over half (51%) have updated or developed flexible work policies.
  • Almost two-fifths (39%) allow employees to determine when work gets done while 37% allow employees to reduce schedules to work less than full time.
  • Almost three in ten (29%) redeploy work across teams differently.
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