Many women have been silently suffering through work during the pandemic. New research finds that one in three women are considering leaving the workforce. This is bound to impact the public sector, where women make up 46% of the workforce.
Women are facing a work/life balance issue. Work is demanding and yet women are still expected to keep up with household duties. For new mothers, the stress of work and life can be even more damaging. What can public sector employers do to support their employees?
Before we dive into how the public sector can help new mothers, let's first discuss what challenges new mothers and parents are dealing with right now.
The pandemic has made it close to impossible for childcare to be sustainable.
Before the pandemic, childcare was already an expensive option for working parents. Daycare can easily eat up a significant chunk of a parent's paycheck. Daycare costs alone have driven women out of the workplace before.
With COVID-19 impacting how businesses can run, many care providers have had to shut down or drastically reduce the number of families they can serve.
As you progress in the public sector, you often need higher education like a bachelor's or even a master's degree. If new mothers haven't advanced in their careers before becoming a parent, they may find it challenging to balance home, work and school. Pay equity in the public sector is essential and that's hard to achieve without workforce advancement.
As women become new mothers, their household duties will inevitably increase. Juggling everything at work and coming home to work several more hours can feel like a never ending job.
While the public sector can do more to be supportive of working parents, governmental agencies did two things to help new parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, federal employees got a huge benefit: paid parental leave for births, adoptions and fosters. Before this, federal employees were only eligible for unpaid leave, making it challenging for new parents to actually afford to take parental leave. Now, federal workers can take several months off to be with their family, create a special bond and avoid childcare costs for the first several months.
Before COVID, the public sector was slow to adopt work-from-home opportunities. During the pandemic, many organizations had to offer more flexible work opportunities to keep up with work when the government shut down offices. Work from home has become essential for new parents because they can keep an eye on their children while contributing to their day job.
The public sector needs to continue to support families and parents. Research shows that new parent benefits can help keep employees on board with your organization. So, what are some ways that you can continue supporting new parents? What do working parents want?
Flexibility is critical for public sector employers. Private sector jobs will continue to offer flexibility for workers, which is something those workplaces may have over public sector work. While being in the public sector has many benefits, some of your workers may not be able to stay employed without the flexibility that work from home gives them.
Childcare will continue to be essential for new parents. If they want to return to the office, having childcare is a must, but it's not a manageable expense for many public sector workers. If available, offering benefits like a child care flexible spending account could be a great option to help parents afford caretakers for their children.
Lastly, another benefit you might consider is offering family planning options for your workers. Family planning is a newer benefit that organizations are offering to handle issues like infertility, fertility treatments or adoption for LGBTQ employees, help for single parents, among others. Parenting is just as diverse as your roster of employees. Family planning benefits would enable more of your employees to become working parents.
Having employees who can comfortably work and be parents is a sign of a healthy work environment. It's time for organizations to embrace parents in the workforce. Let the parents on your team know that you are there for them and that you can be flexible. Parents are outstanding workers and they will repay your grace with hard work.
CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country. Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients. We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.