Employers, Work-Family Supports, and Low-Wage Workers

Research Report

Employers, Work-Family Supports, and Low-Wage Workers

Abstract

Employers shape the work conditions that parents face, and they play a central role in policy debates about how to address work-family pressures. To better understand employer perspectives on these issues, this report presents findings from interviews with 16 organizations that represent or directly work with employers. Focusing on three policy areas central to parents’ ability to manage work and family—paid leave, workplace flexibility and control, and child care—the report explores three research questions:

  1. What are employers’ perceived motivations and barriers for providing work-family supports to low-wage workers?
  2. What role do employers see for public policy or employer policy in each area?
  3. How do employers think about relationships between different work-family supports and other benefits they might provide low-wage workers?

Because this research was exploratory, the results of our inquiry do not point to specific policy recommendations, but they do suggest the following considerations to inform future policy and research:

  • Employers may need more information to understand issues facing their workforces and the options available to address these issues. There are varying perspectives on the best ways to provide paid leave, workplace flexibility and control, and child care, but there is broad consensus that these supports are valuable.
  • Employer perspectives could evolve with more information on, experience with, and public attention to different approaches to address these work-family challenges. Respondents portrayed employer perspectives on their role relative to public policy as different across policy areas.
  • Employer costs vary, but public policy could help address them without excluding workers from benefits. Concerns about the costs of providing public or employer-sponsored work-family supports are real. But employers might be willing to absorb some costs associated with supports that they see as benefiting business.
  • More research, knowledge, and innovation could inform cross-domain policy design. Employers, researchers, policymakers, and advocates tend to think of work-family supports in silos. Further research is needed to understand how both public and employer-based policies related to paid leave, workplace flexibility, and child care can be designed strategically and in an integrated fashion.

This report is part of the Understanding Gaps in the Path to Good Work-Family Outcomes project, which the Urban Institute produced as a member of the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community. The project was motivated by the need for a holistic perspective on how public and employer policies interact to fill gaps in the supports parents need to attend to their children’s well-being while also meeting employer needs. In addition to Employers, Work-Family Supports, and Low-Wage Workers, the project has produced another report, Parents’ Access to Work-Family Supports. The entire project and Urban’s first two years as a member of the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community were funded by a grant from the Aspen Institute, which has been supported to launch Family Prosperity by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Cross-Center Initiative

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