Now, more than ever, the pressure is on for single parents who work full-time while caring for their children. Eight percent of full-time employees are single parents, while 60 percent of American households are supported by two incomes. Although single parents might make up a relatively small portion of the full-time workforce, offering better support and flexibility could make full-time work possible for more of them and make life more manageable for those single parents already employed full time.
Supporting single parents now
In many ways, the economic odds are stacked against single parents. These workers are supporting families on a single income, while also managing and paying for childcare on their own. Fortunately, there are many ways employers can help improve work conditions for single parents.
Flexible work arrangements
Unsurprisingly, three in five single parents want flexible work hours and the option to telecommute, however, 45 percent of single parents say that flexible work hours are not available through their employer. 1 As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, working and parenting is a difficult balancing act. Flexible work will be vital for all parents, but especially single parents who manage the entire family schedule on their own.
Whether your company can offer flexible work arrangements or not, there are other ways to help single parents manage childcare. On-site childcare or corporate discounts for use at childcare facilities can help make it easier for single parents to get reliable care on their schedule and lighten the financial burden for these families.
On average, single parents rate their physical health significantly lower than partnered parents. The demands on a single parent’s time can make it difficult for these parents to look after their own well-being. Make sure you not only offer paid time off to your employees but that they’re encouraged to use it to recharge. Paid family and medical leave policies can also help relieve the financial strain on new parents and parents of sick children who need to take extended time away from work to care for their families. Even if your state does not require paid leave, consider a company policy that can offer this much-needed benefit.
Mental health benefits
Single parents have relatively lower well-being, especially single parents that also have additional caregiving responsibilities, such as looking after their aging parents.2 Offering benefits that support their mental wellness may help them to improve their well-being. Guardian’s Mind, Body, and Wallet: Workforce well-being in the pandemic era research has also shown that downward trending workforce mental wellness can contribute to absenteeism, higher healthcare costs, and decreased productivity.3 A workplace mental wellness solution offers tools, resources, and professional services that help meet a broad range of mental health needs.
Offering support for the future
Being a single parent isn’t just a time management challenge, it’s a financial challenge too. The average annual household income for single parents is significantly lower than partnered parents with 44 percent of single parents earning less than $50,000 and only 10 percent of married parents earn that amount.4 On average, single parents have less money in savings and are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. Employee benefits can make a big difference in the financial wellness of these workers.
Retirement savings plans
Since single parents are saving less overall, they have less money set aside for retirement.5 A retirement plan from their employer, with a potential employer match, could make the difference between an uncertain future and a solid financial plan for retirement. And since these workers must manage household financial decisions on their own, offering the help of a financial professional during benefits enrollment could make the process of saving for retirement that much easier to navigate.
College savings plans
Single parents are also less likely to be putting money aside for their children’s education and likely to have less formal education themselves, according to our report, so offering a college savings plan could make a big difference in the lives of these employees and their children.
Since more single working parents are women, and single parents are more likely to be Black or Hispanic, helping these employees thrive in the full-time workforce can also help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. And the types of support single parents want are in line with overall trends in workforce demands, so while single parents may benefit more from the support, all employees will appreciate the benefits.