These family-friendly policies help women thrive in the workplace

March 8, 2023, 12:37 PM UTC
A woman wearing a headset sits at a kitchen island taking work calls, while her daughter plays with toys on the other side.
Family-friendly workplace benefits are key to retaining top female talent.
kate_sept2004—Getty Images

Good morning! Paige McGlauflin here, filling in for Amber.

Today is International Women’s Day. This day—and its theme, #EmbraceEquity—feels particularly apt given the gender workplace inequalities exacerbated by the ongoing childcare crisis in the U.S.

The total number of workplace absences for childcare-related issues reached a record high of 104,000 in October, spurred in part by a “tripledemic” that amplified worker shortages in the childcare industry. Unsurprisingly, women disproportionately make up the share of absentees, outnumbering men over three times to one for childcare-related work absences in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Besides the productivity hit of absenteeism, employers have additional incentives to make the workplace truly family-friendly. When employers offer on-site childcare, for instance, employee absences and job turnover decrease by 30% and 60%, respectively. At the federal level, the Biden administration recently unveiled new rules requiring that firms accessing some of the $39 billion funding for semiconductor manufacturing offer affordable childcare to workers. And separately, employers that build or acquire in-house childcare or contract with a licensed childcare program can receive a tax credit of up to $150,000 annually.

Offering family-friendly options is not a matter of going big or going home. Employers can utilize a whole continuum of opportunities, including:

– Dependent care FSA—a pre-tax benefit account to pay for childcare services 

– Flexibility through remote or hybrid work

– Nursing benefits

– Parental leave

– Paid time off 

These benefits aren’t just for office workers, either. The Gap, for example, saw in-store sales and productivity increase by 7% and 5%, respectively, after some stores piloted a shift swap app that improved scheduling flexibility. 

Encouraging men to use these benefits is another necessary step toward a family-friendly workplace. Only 5% of new dads took at least two weeks of parental leave, according to 2020 research from Ball State University. “[Making] sure that it’s okay to take up those benefits and there are no drawbacks is really important,” says Ariane Hegewisch, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Providing employees with family-friendly benefits is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Employers should survey their workforce to determine which policies employees need most. Above all else, just start somewhere, says Sadie Funk, national director at Best Place for Working Parents.

“There’s no one policy you must implement,” she says. Starting these conversations and looking at a suite of implementable policies “provides a key opportunity, not only to support your working parents but to start investing back in your business as well.”

Paige McGlauflin

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the central bank would likely raise interest rates even higher than anticipated. It’s a move that will “very likely” affect the hot labor market.

“Mr. Powell said that wage growth—while it has moderated somewhat—remains too strong to be consistent with a return to 2% inflation. When companies are paying more, they are likely to charge more to cover their labor bills. And consumers who are earning more may have more ability to sustain their spending, keeping demand strong enough to allow price increases to persist.” —New York Times

Around the Table

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- Moody’s chief economist told a Senate panel that the U.S. could lose upward of a million jobs if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. New York Times 

- Banks are hiring for electronic-trading roles despite recent Wall Street layoffs. Bloomberg

Starbucks' interim CEO Howard Schultz agreed to testify before Congress regarding the company’s alleged anti-union practices. Reuters


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Sunsetting gag orders. The National Labor Relations Board threw out a hospital’s entire severance agreement, deeming its confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses overly broad. The decision sets a precedent that’s considered a win for workers. —Geoff Colvin 

Facebook layoffs continue. Meta plans to lay off 1,000 employees. The decision comes after it laid off 11,000 employees in November. —Sarah Frier et al.

House call. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says the company “knows empirically” that employees perform better in the office than remotely. But it won’t force workers to come in for fear of losing star employees. —Nicholas Gordon

Tyson sues. Tyson Foods employees are suing the company over inadequate COVID protections at the start of the pandemic. They claim the food manufacturer failed to quarantine sick employees, provide masks, or implement social distancing policies, which led to infections and deaths. —Dee-Ann Durbin

Promotion pause. Alphabet plans to promote fewer people into senior roles after a slowdown in the company’s growth. —Christiaan Hetzner

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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