Recent Study: There’s a Strong ROI for Employers That Support Parents - Early Learning Nation

Recent Study: There’s a Strong ROI for Employers That Support Parents

Business leaders looking to boost their return on investment might do well to look at one area that’s a good bet: child care.

A recent study, conducted by Vivvi and The Fifth Trimester, found nearly $18 in benefits for every $1 organizations spent on support for employees with children. Based on interviews with parents conducted between July 2023 and January 2024 along with an original survey of 304 people, the study builds on existing research to show the benefits for employers and caregivers alike.

The findings provide evidence that parent-friendly practices and policies promote an inclusive culture that boosts retention rates for employers, boosts productivity among its people and unlocks parents’ leadership potential.

Among its findings:

  • 67% of survey respondents said they had considered leaving their job in the past year, yet 42% of those said they stayed specifically because of their employer’s support for caregiving.
  • Overall, 59% of respondents said they’d be likely to stay with their employer for at least four years if they had backup or subsidized child care. That’s 14 months longer than the average millennial stays at a job.
  • Yet only 22% of respondents reported feeling “very welcome” to express their identity as caregivers at work, and 21% said their benefits “mostly” or “very well” address that identity.

“Caregiving support is not ‘bells and whistles,’ but a vital pillar of profitability, with calculable ROI, that makes sense for all businesses and all employees,” according to the study.

“Incredibly Motivated”: An Updated View of Working Parents

The study counters the “false narrative” that parents are more likely to drop out of the workforce, said Lauren Smith Brody, CEO of The Fifth Trimester, in a recent online interview. “The big unlock that we found is that, yes, they’re incredibly motivated by their kids to make more money. to be better performers at work and to stay longer,” she said. “There’s a big ‘but’ there, which is that they have to have the support to be able to do so.”

One unexpected finding from the case study interviews and survey data is that a wide variety of workers wanted caregiving benefits to be made available, even if they weren’t going to benefit from it themselves. “That was actually a delightful result to see that we weren’t anticipating. They sent a really positive signal that care matters here … and we understand the value of supporting you in that.” –Lauren Smith Brody, CEO, The Fifth Trimester

The Fifth Trimester consults with private-sector businesses to help them understand why child care benefits are a business decision, as well as providing research support for working caregivers.

Parents and guardians, Brody said, are motivated to provide for their families. “There are very, very often parents who were sounding like they were more motivated to actually be more productive, be more efficient, be more stable and stay at their employer, or they wanted to be,” she said. “Child care is expensive. They wanted to provide for their children. They wanted to have stable hours and a life that works that let them be fulfilled in their parenting work, as well.”

Lauren Hobbs, chief marketing officer at Vivvi, added that the idea for the research and the personal stories developed from hearing perspectives often overlooked in media coverage.

“We really wanted to figure out how to flip that narrative and tell the many positive stories that we were seeing throughout all of these companies and ecosystems of care,” she said.

Real-World Examples: Quantifying Parent-Friendly Policies

The research Vivvi and The Fifth Trimester conducted didn’t end with numbers and percentages. It also features 10 case studies spanning a variety of caregiving situations that lay out how having child care options allowed parents to be more productive, and attaching a dollar amount to each person’s experience.

One such caregiver is Evangeline, 56, a scientist at a publicly traded multinational cosmetics company and a single parent. Through the use of employer benefits that included a flexible spending account (FSA), flexible hours and an employee resource group (ERG), Evangeline was able to return to the workforce, use her early-morning start time to get a jump on her day’s work, as well as carve out time to mentor junior employees.

“We’re global, meaning any calls and meetings with Europe need to take place by 2 p.m.,” she says. “My start time lets me take those calls first thing, and my European colleagues don’t have to stay late. It’s beautiful.”

All told, for an annual investment of $2,656, Evangeline’s company realizes $52,242.50 in benefits — an 18.7 percent ROI.

Another parent, Madeline, 33, who works for a healthcare technology company, credits her employer’s caregiver-friendly policies for her productivity, innovation and motivation. “With remote work and flexible PTO, I never feel like I have to make a tough decision,” she says. “I can simply plan accordingly. I’m doing what’s right for my family and the business.”

Madeline was able to use paid family leave and a half-time schedule for two weeks after she returned to work, along with a pre-tax child care FSA and a women’s ERG, benefits that cost an estimated $52,604. With fewer sick days, greater productivity and a reduced risk of attrition, Madeline’s employer saw $395,136 in benefits, or an ROI of 6.5 percent.

The case studies show that even small investments can have outsized benefits for companies.

One such story comes from Sincere, 48, a trans outreach coordinator at a women’s health center. Child care reimbursement—at a one-year cost of $2,500—and a flexible work schedule meant that Sincere was able to avoid getting a second job to meet expenses. It has allowed him to take healthier breaks, increase his productivity and expand the scope of his employer’s mission, leading to the launch of a thought leadership program in partnership with a local university and community support organizations.

“This child care benefit is the coolest bridge,” he said. “I am so intentional about my work, and I

know that my work is intentional about me and our family.”

The investment resulted in a cost benefit of $128,743, or a 50.5 percent ROI for his employer.

Benefits for Employers of All Sizes

Hobbs noted that companies of all sizes are able to see benefits from accommodating their caregiving employees. “It’s not exclusive to Fortune 100 companies that have all the resources in the world. There are so many different ways to service these needs,” she said. “You don’t have to be sitting on a million dollars and three acres of land.”

Hobbs also pointed out that a range of caregiver-friendly policies and investments can reap outsized rewards. “It’s just not a one-size-fits-all solution,” she said. “There are so many different types of caregivers and family structures, and different things mean different things to different people or stages of their journey, as well.”

Next Steps: Considering the Needs of Caregivers

Hobbs said she hoped the study would help shift the perspective around parents.“ In the private sector, what we would all love to see—and what this study shows is possible—is for every company to think about caregivers as a hugely flexible part of their workforce and to treat them as such, and to take at least one step toward what they do support them with benefits [for their] workforce,” she said.

Brody added that working parents can also benefit from understanding the value of what they bring as employees. “As workers, I think we’re conditioned to not even think of these things as value-adds that we’re doing, and so I really hope that this will sort of reframe that for a lot of people,” she said.

One unexpected finding from the case study interviews and the survey data is that a wide variety of workers wanted caregiving benefits to be made available, even if they weren’t going to benefit from it themselves. “That was actually a delightful result to see that we weren’t anticipating,” Brody said. “They sent a really positive signal that care matters here … and we understand the value of supporting you in that.”

Brody said that the companies doing the best job at supporting parents are the ones offering the same benefits across their entire workforce, from hourly wage, shift workers to executives.

Yet to move the needle on the topic of such parental benefits will require a broader approach that addresses cultural norms and public policy, as well as the private sector, all working together, Brody added.

“It’s not a niche need,” she said. “It’s an ‘everybody’ need.”

Bruno J. Navarro is a writer, editor and photographer who has covered business, technology, courts and education. His work has appeared in CNBC, Women's Wear Daily, NBC News, The Associated Press, Nylon and The Arizona Republic. Originally from Queens, New York, he currently lives in New Jersey.

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