Finding and affording quality childcare are the top issues for working parents in Connecticut, according to a new survey released today.
The Connecticut Employee Childcare Needs Survey—produced by the Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative (a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy), CBIA, ReadyCT, and Social Venture Partners Connecticut—illustrates the impact of employee childcare needs on businesses and economic growth.
The cost and availability of childcare has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and employers are looking for tools and resources to support their employees.
- Employers reported reduced workforce reliability and productivity as a result of childcare issues.
- Childcare issues are not widespread according to respondents, but are disruptive for those that it does affect. Given that almost half of the respondents report that employees do not need childcare reflects either the age of the workforce or employees not having primary responsibility for childcare.
- To alleviate these issues, employers have implemented policies such as flexible scheduling, reduced hours, and remote work.
- Employers think an increase in government assistance, such as tax incentives to support childcare, will help recruit and retain workforce talent.
Childcare Spaces Shortage
Connecticut reported a lack of nearly 50,000 spaces for children in childcare facilities in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Studies document how the lack of childcare is leading to workers, particularly women, withdrawing from the workforce and its detrimental effects on businesses and economic growth.
Seventy-six percent of employers say that childcare negatively impacts between up to 20% of their workforce, while 17% report it impacted between 20% and 40%.
Only 2% of employers said that over 60% of their employees are negatively impacted by childcare issues.
While a relatively small number of employers are negatively impacted by childcare needs, it is quite disruptive to those that are impacted.
“Over the past year, many employees across Connecticut had to not only adapt to remote work, but also manage childcare and remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.
“Workforce recruitment and retention have been and remain one of the biggest challenges for employers, so support and resources are critical. We cannot rebuild Connecticut from the pandemic without addressing working parent needs.”
Almost half (44%) say there is no need for childcare support for employees because they either do not have children or their children were old enough to not require childcare.
Of those that say their childcare needs were being met, 32% of employers can handle childcare issues because they provide a sufficient amount of support to employees.
One quarter (24%) of employers say that their company policies, such as “dependent care deductions from payroll,” flexible hours, and remote working, were effective in supporting and sometimes resolving childcare needs.
"Childcare is an extraordinarily important issue affecting virtually every Connecticut resident, whether directly or indirectly," said Shannon Marimón, executive director of ReadyCT, the Pre-K-12 education and workforce development affiliate of CBIA.
"Now, through a novel cross-sector collaboration among invested stakeholders, employers and employees have a toolkit and set of resources to help make informed decisions regarding the care of children. This is a tremendous outcome."
Overall, employers report a good understanding of their employees’ childcare needs. They tend to find out about employee childcare issues on an ad hoc basis from employee inquiries, lateness, or absenteeism. This may reflect the preponderance of responses from small companies with fewer employees.
The biggest issue parents face is finding affordable childcare and finding sufficient childcare for children who are attending school remotely. Some parents have reported being “wary of someone else watching their child during COVID,” and chose to keep their kids at home.
As a result, some employees disrupt their workday in order to be with their children, where in-person schooling and childcare centers are not available. Consequently, employees have noticed reduced workforce reliability and productivity.
“The pandemic has laid bare the inadequacies of our current childcare system,” noted Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative executive director Carol O’Donnell. “Accessibility, affordability and quality of care have challenged families before the pandemic.”
“The time is ripe to reimagine our childcare system. However, an effective, equitable solution for all requires the active involvement of government, business, philanthropy, providers and families.”
Employers have implemented several company policies in order to alleviate stress facing their employees.
Thirty-five percent of employers implemented additional flexible scheduling, allowing employees the freedom to choose when they want to be on the clock.
Almost a quarter (21%) of employers allow their employees to work from home so they may be with their children. And 19% of employers have reduced hours for employees for additional time to care for their children.
More employers are open to helping their employees handle childcare issues, under certain conditions.
More employers would be willing to help if there was an increase in government assistance, such as “higher tax deductions allowed for childcare expenses,” and if valued employees requested assistance.
Workforce recruitment and retainment remains a top priority for Connecticut employers.
"This survey clearly shows that Connecticut employers are concerned about the impact on workforce reliability and productivity,” said Robert Wechsler, a partner at Social Venture Partners Connecticut.
“At the same time, other studies have shown that employees believe childcare issues affect their productivity even more than their employers realize. The childcare problems of both employers and employees have only been heightened during the pandemic.
“That is why raising awareness of the issues around childcare and providing the tools for employers to address these challenges is so critical now to our families' well-being, our workforce, and our state's economy."
Employers interested in additional tools and resources to address their employees’ childcare needs, including models and best practices in the workplace, can be found in the childcare needs toolkit.CT-Employer-Childcare-Toolkit_0421
The survey was emailed from Nov. 24, 2020 through Jan. 6, 2021 to more than 3,500 top executives throughout the state; 234 business leaders participated in the survey, with a response rate of 6.25% and a margin of error of +/-6%.
Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative comprises 20 funders from across the state committed to building an equitable, effective, high-quality early childhood system. It is a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, an association of grantmakers committed to promoting and supporting effective philanthropy for the public good.
CBIA is Connecticut’s largest business organization, with thousands of member companies, small and large, representing a diverse range of industries from every part of the state. For more information, please contact Joe Budd (860.244.1951).
ReadyCT is a nonprofit organization working to advance academic excellence and career-connected learning for all public school students in Connecticut through collaboration with business, civic, and education leaders. ReadyCT is a CBIA affiliate. For more information, please contact Sheryl McNamee (860.244.1109).
Social Venture Partners Connecticut consists of over 200 partners, plus staff, who scale their social impact by working together to provide capacity building to nonprofits and systems change projects, with a focus on race equity and closing the opportunity gap.