Childcare costs and lack of paid leave hold back many working parents
Ariel Skelley | DigitalVision | Getty Images
Lack of paid time off and access to quality child care has long been a problem for working parents in the United States, advocates say.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, with some parents – mostly women – giving up their jobs to care for their children. A September report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that one in four women were considering leaving the workforce or reducing their career.
âThe pandemic has really shown people how much caregiving is really part of what makes the economy work,â said Lelaine Bigelow, executive director of external affairs for the National Partnership for Women and Families.
The Biden administration recently responded by offering 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, which workers would get within 10 years. They could receive up to $ 4,000 a month, with at least two-thirds of their average weekly salary replaced. The program, which is part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.8 trillion spending and tax credit plan, would be funded through payroll taxes.
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Biden’s plan would also spend $ 225 billion over a decade on child care for children under 5. It ensures that families pay only a portion of their total income for services, with the average family saving $ 14,800 per year on child care.
Some companies already offer some form of assistance to their employees. A quarter of employers offer paid parental leave to at least some employees for the birth or placement of a child, according to a 2019 survey from Kaiser Family Foundation.
When it comes to child care, only 4% of employers offered subsidized child care centers or programs, according to the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2019 employee benefits survey
Another 4% provided non-subsidized centers, either affiliated with the company or nearby, and 11% offered a referral service to suppliers.
Yet, it is something that parents desire. According to a recent survey by child care provider Bright Horizons, 46% of working parents want their employer to provide some form of child care or emergency child care.
Amanda Fallon, a 38-year-old mother of a 4-year-old 8-month-old, is one of those with a daycare facility located on her employer’s campus in South San Francisco, California. Although tuition fees are not subsidized by the company, Genentech, they are reduced based on family income.
This proved useful especially during the pandemic, as Genentech allowed employees who were using the center to return to campus earlier than expected, Fallon said. She was able to work and take care of her two children nearby.
âI was able to meet these challenges much more easily because of the support I received from my employer,â Fallon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
While employers can bring relief to their workers, a national policy is needed for all Americans, supporters say.
Under Biden’s plan, low-income families would have all of their childcare expenses covered. Those earning 1.5 times their national median income would spend no more than 7% of their annual salary.
Small businesses also argue that it would help them compete with large businesses for workers.
âWe have to be very careful when we look to the private sector to solve a large-scale program like this because it has a direct impact on the economy of small businesses,â said Sarah Cozier, spokesperson for Main Street Alliance.
âIn order to be able to support a successful small business owner and his or her employees, it is important that the government intervene with these [child-care] subsidies so that we are on an equal footing. “
Kate Davenport, co-chair of Eureka Recycling.
Source: Kate Davenport
For Kate Davenport, co-chair of Minneapolis-based Eureka Recycling, a national paid vacation policy would finally allow her to offer it to her 120 employees. Right now, it’s financially out of reach.
âAs a small business, we struggle to be competitive. We don’t have the same profit margins as some big companies, âsaid Davenport, which already pays employees a living wage, offers paid time off and covers health insurance premiums. 100%.
She also asked employees to turn down promotions because of childcare issues.
âIt would create a cliff of profits,â she explained. “If they get the promotion and earn $ 5 to $ 10 more an hour then they won’t be eligible for child care subsidies and yet that’s not enough money to pay.” childcare services.
Ultimately, it’s about getting parents, especially moms, back to work.
âIf we are truly concerned about a fair economy and growing our economy, we need to put in place policies that support our working women,â said Crozier.
“We also have to recognize that women are not the only ones affected by these things.”
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