A survey of Connecticut businesses found that the cost and availability of child care was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has reduced workforce reliability and productivity.
The survey which was produced by the Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative found employers have implemented policies such as flexible scheduling, reduced hours, and remote work.
The survey of 234 businesses conducted between Nov. 2020 and Jan. 2021 also found that employers think an increase in government assistance, such as tax incentives to support childcare, will help recruit and retain workforce talent.
“Over the past year, many employees across Connecticut had to not only adapt to remote work, but also manage childcare and remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic,” CBIA President and CEO Chris DiPentima said. “Workforce recruitment and retention have been and remain one of the biggest challenges for employers, so support and resources are critical. We cannot rebuild Connecticut from the pandemic without addressing working parent needs.”
How widespread is the problem?
Seventy-six percent of employers said that childcare negatively impacts between up to 20% of their workforce, while 17% report it impacted between 20% and 40%. Only 2% of employers said that over 60% of their employees are negatively impacted by childcare issues.
One quarter or 24% of employers said that their company policies, such as “dependent care deductions from payroll,” flexible hours, and remote working, were effective in supporting and sometimes resolving childcare needs.
The biggest issue parents face is finding affordable childcare and finding sufficient childcare for children who are attending school remotely. Some parents have reported being “wary of someone else watching their child during COVID,” and chose to keep their kids at home.
As a result, some employees disrupt their workday in order to be with their children, where in-person schooling and childcare centers are not available. Consequently, employees have noticed reduced workforce reliability and productivity.
“The pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of our current childcare system,” Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative Executive Director Carol O’Donnell said.
“Accessibility, affordability and quality of care have challenged families before the pandemic. The time is ripe to reimagine our childcare system. However, an effective, equitable solution for all requires the active involvement of government, business, philanthropy, providers and families.”
Employers have implemented several company policies in order to alleviate stress facing their employees. Thirty-five percent of employers implemented additional flexible scheduling, allowing employees the freedom to choose when they want to be on the clock.
Almost a quarter or 21% of employers allow their employees to work from home so they may be with their children. And 19% of employers have reduced hours for employees for additional time to care for their children.
“Other studies have shown that employees believe childcare issues affect their productivity even more than their employers realize,” Robert Wechsler, a partner at Social Venture Partners Connecticut, said. “That is why raising awareness of the issues around childcare and providing the tools for employers to address these challenges is so critical now to our families’ well-being, our workforce, and our state’s economy.”
More employers are open to helping their employees handle childcare issues, if there was an increase in government assistance, such as “higher tax deductions allowed for childcare expenses,” and if valued employees requested assistance.
The collaborative has created this tool kit for employers.