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Journal Issue: Caring for Infants and Toddlers Volume 11 Number 1 Spring/Summer 2001

Employer Supports for Parents with Young Children
Dana E. Friedman

Summary

The competing interests of employers, working parents, and very young children collide in decisions over work schedules, child care arrangements, promotions, children's sicknesses, and overtime hours. With the rising number of women in the labor force, more and more employers are concerned about how their workers balance work and family priorities. This article examines the supports that employers provide to help parents with young children juggle demands on their time and attention. It reviews the availability of traditional benefits, such as vacation and health insurance, and describes family-friendly initiatives. Exciting progress is being made in this arena by leading employers, but coverage remains uneven:

  • Employers say they provide family-friendly policies and programs to improve staff recruitment and retention, reduce absenteeism, and increase job satisfaction and company loyalty. Evaluations demonstrate positive impacts on each of these valued outcomes.
     
  • Employee benefits and work/family supports seldom reach all layers of the work force, and low-income workers who need assistance the most are the least likely to receive or take advantage of it.
     
  • Understandably, employer policies seek to maximize productive work time. However, it is often in the best interests of children for a parent to be able to set work aside to address urgent family concerns.

The author concludes that concrete work/family supports like on-site child care, paid leave, and flextime are important innovations. Ultimately, the most valuable aid to employees would be a family-friendly workplace culture, with supportive supervision and management practices.