Recent studies conducted by REC Parenting and Bright Horizons reveal a some alarming workplace trends, showcasing the significant lack of support for working parents. Despite attempts to cultivate more inclusive work environments, the findings indicate that employer efforts are far from sufficient, leaving a large number of parents struggling to find a balance between their professional and familial obligations.
From the survey commissioned by REC Parenting, it has become evident that only a small fraction of working parents, about 14%, feel that their employee benefits package effectively supports them as parents. Furthermore, just 20% have access to any form of parenting support within their benefits, while a staggering 20% do not receive any employee benefits at all.
The research highlights a strong consensus among working parents, with 80% believing that their employers should actively support parenting, and nearly three-quarters (73%) expressing a desire for their line managers to receive training on how to better support employees with parental responsibilities. Despite a cooling labor market in 2024, the challenge of balancing home and work life has led 40% of working parents to contemplate quitting their jobs. This highlights the critical need for employers to provide dedicated support to parents, which is not only desired but deemed essential in the current climate.
The study also notes a disparity in support based on age, with younger parents, those aged 34 and under, more likely to receive dedicated parental benefits (28%) compared to their older counterparts (16% for those aged 35 and over). This indicates a prevailing misconception that parental support is primarily needed during a child’s early years, neglecting the ongoing challenges faced by parents of older children.
Bright Horizons’ annual Modern Families Index survey further compounds these issues, revealing that 42% of working parents are actively seeking new employment in 2024 for better pay and more supportive family policies—a 4% increase from the previous year. The perception of employer support for family life has declined, with only 72% of employees feeling supported in 2024, down from 77% the year before. The survey also highlights the significant impact of childcare challenges on work, with two-thirds of parents having to take unexpected time off and nearly half resorting to using their annual leave to cover such emergencies.
The gender disparity in parental responsibilities is stark, with almost three-quarters (74%) of working mothers bearing the majority of the parenting load, affecting their career progression and mental health. This contrast sharply with the experiences of working fathers, pointing to a deeper issue of gender inequity in the workplace and at home.
Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, expresses grave concerns over the backslide in support for working families. The increasing cost of living and the push for employees to return to on-site work necessitate a forward-moving approach from employers to better accommodate the needs of their workforce, balancing career and family life. The gap between what working parents expect and what is provided is causing significant strain, impacting not only the mental health and productivity of employees but also affecting companies’ ability to retain and recruit talent effectively.
The call to action for employers is clear: to address these challenges proactively and create a work environment that genuinely supports working parents. By doing so, businesses can improve workforce retention, attract top talent, and ensure the overall well-being and efficiency of their employees.
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.