Many working parents are finding it impossible to juggle work and caring for their children and family during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, have chosen to leave the workforce according to a new survey by Harris Poll, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.

The survey found more than 1 in 4 companies (28%) report employees left due to care obligations last year, either for children (20%) or other family members (14%).

When it comes to employees with children, 1 in 4 Canadian companies (23%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to retain working parents.

Moreover, one-third of companies surveyed also say that their employees who remained have changed their work schedule (36%) and/or reduced the number of hours they work (33%) due to family obligations.

Those surveyed say the pandemic has had a greater negative impact on working moms (27%), which is four times the number who believe the pandemic has had a greater negative impact on working dads (6%). More than half (56%) agree the pandemic has had a negative impact on both working mothers and fathers equally.

While nearly 3 in 4 of those surveyed (73%) agree it is important that their company nurture and grow working parents as leaders within their organizations, only 22% say retaining working parents is one of their company’s most important priorities right now.

“Throughout the last year, we certainly saw working parents who decided it was necessary to step back from work due to family commitments exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Bruce Hein, franchise owner of the Sarnia Express franchise office. “Fortunately, many employers have accommodated and strongly encouraged working from home when possible to prioritize employee health and safety as well as retention.”

Accommodations to retain working parents don’t always have to be drastic, Express CEO Bill Stoller says.

“Working parents are an important part of the workforce, and with the instability surrounding the pandemic, business owners should allow some flexibility for childcare when possible,” he said. “A diverse labour market benefits everyone, and parents in the workforce are then able to pass on a quality work ethic to the next generation.”

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted online within Canada by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Nov. 16 and Dec. 7, 2020, among 506 Canadian hiring decision-makers (defined as adults ages 18+ in Canada who are employed full-time or self-employed, work at companies with more than one employee, and have full/significant involvement in hiring decisions at their company). Data was weighted where necessary by company size to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.