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13 Jul 2022
by Jennifer Liston-Smith

New research urges employers to help with life balance, cost of living and childcare

The cost of living is top of the list of concerns for for generation Z and millennials, while working parents want employers to offer more flexibility

New research urges employers to help with balance, cost of living, and childcare.jpg 1


The 11th Deloitte Gen Z and Millennial Survey has hard-hitting messages for employers.

The survey of more than 23,000 people across 46 countries says: “The sustained workplace changes they’ve [generation Z and millennials] been asking for – including higher compensation, more flexibility, better work/life balance, increased learning and development opportunities, better mental health and wellness support, and a greater commitment from businesses to make a positive societal impact – are also the strategies that will help employers attract and retain talent.”

Work-life balance is a top priority

For both groups, generation Z respondents aged 18 to 27 and millennials aged 28 to 39 – the cost of living is the highest concern while work-life balance tops the list of reasons to stay with their employer.

The Working Families Index, run by the charity Working Families with Talking Talent, also explored financial pressures on working parents as well as their desire for flexibility.

The study of 2,800 parents and carers found that 70% were working flexibly compared with 55% in 2019, while over one-third reported hybrid or home-based arrangements compared with 22% before the Covid-19 pandemic. More working fathers reported working part-time post-pandemic, but working mothers still worked more part-time overall, which the report describes as ‘the least flexible ‘flex’.’

Overall, while hybrid workers were more likely to be male, higher earners and London based, people working reduced or part-time hours were more likely to be women, single parents, younger and earning under £25k a year.

More flexibility is wanted

The report calls for better, more equitable and transparent access to flexibility. It goes on: ‘The research shows that families are finding it harder to manage financially, with three in five parents and carers reporting it has become more difficult to raise a family.’

It links this with advice to consider the living wage as well as supporting childcare costs, including emphasising that “subsidies towards ongoing childcare, holiday club provision or loans to cover nursery deposits can facilitate working for many families”.

Helping working parents get back to the office

McKinsey’s The Childcare Conundrum article goes further, exploring “How can companies ease working parents’ return to the office?” On the subject of retention the authors say: “When deciding whether to stay with a company or switch to another, 83% of women and 81% of men with children aged five and under said childcare benefits would be a “very important” or “somewhat important” factor.”

About 40% of respondents who were considering moving to a less-demanding job said on-site childcare services at their current company might cause them to reconsider. And 38% of respondents said that their companies’ assistance with childcare expenses would also be a key factor in staying put.

New trends and changes revealed

Bright Horizons’ own Work+Family Snapshot research similarly reveals new trends and shifts in expectations. This survey of more than 1,500 employees of Bright Horizon’s client organisations shows a continuing shift towards placing higher priority on family life as well as rethinking life direction.

For many, this is coupled with strengthened career ambitions. The findings further demonstrate that providing care, both short-notice and ongoing day-to-day care, has a strong positive impact on wellbeing, loyalty, engagement, productivity, parental leave return and career progression.

For example, nearly nine in 10 (89%) of those using a workplace nursery found it easier to return after parental leave, while 88% of those using back-up care are more likely to recommend their employer as a result. And 87% of those who used either back-up care or workplace nurseries agreed the service “positively impacts overall wellbeing/reduces stress”.

Take-up of tax-free childcare is low

Employees could be encouraged to check they are not missing out on up to £2,000 of tax-free childcare support, as take-up is reportedly low.

The fullest support an employer could provide would be provision of a workplace nursery or a workplace nursery partnership which enables tax and National Insurance savings through a salary sacrifice scheme.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education is consulting on whether a reduction in childcare ratios in England could help make childcare more affordable and more places available. It proposes to increase from four to five the number of two-year-olds that a practitioner can look after.

Employment Bill absent from the Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech in May failed to include an Employment Bill, despite much anticipation since it was announced in December 2019. This means the day 1 right to request flexible working will not be scheduled to pass into law any time soon, nor a statutory right to five days’ unpaid leave for carers. There has been criticism of the missed opportunity and the TUC is calling on the government to clarify how employers will be guided towards best practice on flexible working.

Good employers continue to be celebrated

Leading employers do not wait for legislation to take action. They put provisions in place because there is a business case based on attraction, retention, engagement, wellbeing and productivity – as well as cost savings – and because it keeps up with societal change. The current flurry of recognition of these forward-thinking employers includes the Times Top 50 employers for women, as well as Working Families Best Practice Awards, with the ceremony this year in partnership with Bright Horizons.

In partnership with Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions

Bright Horizons is dedicated to providing the best in class work+family solutions.

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