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Mothers in the Workplace

Honoring Mothers in the Workplace

Mothers in the WorkplaceMother’s Day 2022—the second Sunday in May each year—was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson "as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country." It also serves as a good reminder to employers that working moms should be honored all year long with policies and practices that support their situations. The pandemic highlighted the strain on many working moms during the lockdown when they had to manage work and their children’s remote learning. In fact, 1.1 million women left the workforce entirely, many citing childcare demands as their reason. So, what can employers do now to attract and retain working moms as employees?

What to consider for attracting and retaining working moms:

Work arrangements

According to Flexjobs, flexible work options (78%) and work schedules (77%) ranked ahead of salary (76%) as factors used by moms to evaluate potential job prospects. This means offering:

  • Remote work. This may be full-time or some other arrangement.
  • Flexible schedules. This may be hours that coincide with children’s school hours or some other scheduling options.

Job benefits for working mothers

Childcare is expensive. According to World Population Review, the average cost in the U.S. in 2022 is over $11,000, although it exceeds $20,000 in Massachusetts in 2022 (there’s an interactive map to check costs in your state). Offering dependent care assistance helps working moms pay the high cost of child care. This can be done by employer payments or enabling employees to pay on a pre-tax basis through a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA). Employer payments are tax free up to $5,000. Dependent care FSA salary reduction contributions are also capped at this dollar amount. (The cap had been $10,500 in 2021 but to date has not been retained at that level.)

Workplace support for working mothers

Employers need to walk the talk by being supportive of working moms. This means celebrating births, giving sufficient maternity leave (paternity leave will be addressed in a Father’s Day blog), providing good facilities for employees who breastfeed, and being understanding when employees take time off for child-centered activities (e.g., doctor’s appointments; school functions).

Check federal and state law to determine what you must offer.

  • Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave time, only applies to companies employing 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. States and localities may impose stricter requirements impacting smaller employers (e.g., California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and DC require some paid family and medical leave). If you aren’t required to offer paid family and medical leave but do so, you may claim a federal income tax credit. The credit runs through 2025.
  • Unpaid school-related parental leave. Ten states and DC mandate private employers give certain unpaid time to parents to attend school or daycare activities. Again, the rules vary by location.
  • Breastfeeding. Federal law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide private space for nursing moms to express milk (not merely the bathroom) for one year after the birth of their child and makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee exercising this right. Once again, some states have their own, stricter, rules.

Final thought

Sara Blakely, founder to Spanx, said: “The struggle is real. The juggle is real. This is why everyone should hire working mothers. They are put in crazy situations all the time and are forced to problem-solve. They are some of my most resourceful employees.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms…those with jobs, running their own businesses, or at home (all mom’s work).