As Parents Leave the Workforce During COVID-19, We Look at the Cost of Turnover Versus Family-Friendly Practices


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 75 percent of moms and 50 percent of dads said they’ve passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or quit working to care for their children. When the world went into lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19, things became even harder for working parents. As they try to balance working from home, remote learning, and finding available and affordable child care, many parents are considering leaving the workforce altogether. Researchers suggest as many as 4.3 million American workers may have to quit their jobs to take care of their families. And mothers are disproportionately affected by child care needs, with one in three considering downshifting their career or leaving the workforce.

One way employers can handle this potential loss of labor is to increase their recruitment efforts to cover turnover. Another, more sustainable way is to lower turnover by adding a range of family friendly policies to their benefits packages. 

Let’s walk through each scenario.

Recruitment and Turnover

If a business takes the retention and turnover route, they can expect an uphill battle with hiring costs and overall company morale. The below chart is one example of costs for the hospitality industry, one of our focus industries for Family Forward NC.

The costs associated with turnover add up quickly. There’s advertising for the position, plus time spent interviewing and screening to cover. There’s also costs associated with onboarding and training management for a new employee. It’s estimated that over two to three years, companies are likely to spend 10 to 20 percent of an employee’s salary on their training

And that doesn’t even cover the productivity lost as the new employee gets acclimated to their new job and company. It may take one to two years for an employee to reach the productivity of the person who previously held the same position. This could lead to a dip in customer satisfaction as the new employee takes longer to solve problems. 

High turnover also has an adverse effect on company morale. If employees are often leaving for new opportunities, it makes the rest of your workforce stop and ask why. They may begin to consider why they should stay and what else may be out there.

Family Friendly Benefits

If a business, however, decides to add more family-friendly policies to support working parents, they may find long-term savings and more satisfied employees. 

The costs of different family friendly policies vary by business and benefit. With some benefits, like flexible spending accounts to offer child care subsidies, employers can choose how much to offer their employees – giving them more control over a better bottom line.

One benefit that particularly interests working parents is flexible working hours. Work flexibility is the top priority for 84 percent of working parents and coupling that with remote working policies creates an attractive benefits package for recruitment and retention. Plus, it saves money across your company. Conference technology like Zoom has reduced the need for company travel, telecommuting decreases the need for more office real estate, and offering more work/life balance increases employee satisfaction and productivity.

Overall, the cost savings associated with offering family friendly benefits, in general, outweigh the costs related to turnover.

As the American workforce searches for a way back to normal, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that employers have the opportunity to clear the path for working parents. Incorporating more family-friendly practices now means spending less on recruitment and turnover costs in the future.