A new workforce survey reveals that one in four companies have lost employees due to pandemic caregiving obligations
ACCORDING TO A workforce survey commissioned By Express Employment Professionals, many working parents are finding it impossible to juggle work and caring for their children and family during the pandemic and, as a result, have chosen to leave the workforce.
The survey, conducted by The Harris Poll , found more than one in four companies (28 per cent) report employees left due to care obligations last year, either for children (20 per cent) or other family members (14 per cent).
When it comes to employees with children, one in four Canadian companies (23 per cent) say the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to retain working parents.
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Moreover, one-third of companies surveyed also say that their employees who remained have changed their work schedule (36 per cent) and/or reduced the number of hours they work (33 per cent) due to family obligations.
Those surveyed say the pandemic has had a greater negative impact on working moms (27 per cent), which is four times the number who believe the pandemic has had a greater negative impact on working dads (6 per cent). More than half (56 per cent) agree the pandemic has had a negative impact on both working mothers and fathers equally.
While nearly three in four of those surveyed (73 per cent) agree it is important that their company nurture and grow working parents as leaders within their organizations, only 22 per cent say retaining working parents is one of their company’s most important priorities right now.
Michael Elliott, Express Employment Professionals franchise owner in London and Kitchener-Waterloo, agrees that working moms have been more severely impacted in the workforce. He notes the pandemic has exacerbated the gender imbalance in the labour market and that it will take time before female employment rebounds.
“The specific industries that have been hardest hit — hospitality, travel, retail and service industries — employ a larger percentage of women and, even after lockdowns ease, these industries are expected to rebound at a much slower pace,” says Elliott. “In addition, many employers have modified their business model to no longer require the same number of workers they had pre-pandemic.”
Jessica Culo, an Express franchise owner in Edmonton, cautions that it may not be easy for working parents, particularly working mothers, who left their jobs to re-enter the job market, especially at their previous salary.
“With all the other uncertainty that employers have been faced with in the last 12 months, a new hire or re-hire that left due to unreliable childcare may be seen as outside of their risk tolerance level because of concerns about reliability and fear that they will leave again,” she says.
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While Elliott has seen this problem as well, he believes companies can help become part of the solution for working parents.
“It will be interesting to see whether there will be trailblazing companies that step up and are leaders in this next wave of getting women back to work,” says Elliott. “I think it will take several big names to lead this movement before we see a real impact on the gender imbalance.”
Culo and Elliott agree that many employers have tried to accommodate working parents by providing much greater flexibility.
“It was encouraging to see how quickly companies and organizations adapted to the ongoing lockdowns by offering flexible work arrangements,” says Elliott. “Now that employers can see that productivity can be maintained for those working from home offices, they need to take the next step to address the expectations of the traditional 40-hour work week. Technology has easily bridged the traditional concept of working closely as a team, and in many situations has eliminated a lot of the inefficiencies and distractions of the assembled work location.”