Research suggests that half of US parents will take pay cuts for better family benefits at work

Asset or liability?
Asset or liability?
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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It is well known that many US companies do very little to help working parents. Most don’t offer paid parental leave and few offer substantive child-care benefits.

They should reconsider.

According to Bright Horizons’ 2016 Modern Family Index (pdf), a report that looks at the attitudes and experiences of young working parents in the US, 49% of new parents surveyed took a new job for less money at a more family-friendly employer.

Expectant mothers do report optimism about returning to work after the baby comes: 96% say they are looking forward to going back to work. But the transition is not smooth. Once they returned, 43% of new parents reported thinking that their employer saw them as less committed now that they had children, and 39% reported thinking their employers thought they should get another job.

There’s no evidence that employers actually felt either of those things. But employees must be feeling that way if they are willing to take less money to work at a place where they don’t have to feel guilty about being a parent—a condition (parenthood) that is neither rare, nor detrimental to productivity, according to recent research.

The Bright Horizons research confirmed what many other reports show: Working women want to keep working when they have kids. KPMG, YSC, and the 30% Club in Britain showed in a research report called Cracking the Code (pdf) that women “become more ambitious about senior leadership as their career progresses,” and are no less ambitious than men.

Bright Horizons has written three reports in its Modern Family Index series. The first survey showed that that working parents feel they can’t be honest with their supervisors about family responsibilities, even worrying that family obligations could get them fired. The second found that working parents are burned out and don’t think their employers care.

Providing the support that parents need is happening at companies like Patagonia, but it is the exception, not the rule. Patagonia offers onsite child care and generous paid parental leave, and has 100% retention of new moms in the past five years.

We will know we have made progress when offering family-friendly benefits is the norm, and new mothers aren’t willing reward employers that offer them by asking for lower salaries.