Research: Employer Perspective
S&P Global, in partnership with AARP, examined Corporate America’s family-leave policies by analyzing the relationship between family-friendly benefits, turnover, and company performance—since the U.S. private sector has largely taken the lead in such policies. While some federal paid leave mandates have been introduced in the U.S. since the pandemic began, these mandates may not be long-term and don’t apply to the largest companies in America.
This research is based on an S&P Global/AARP survey of 53 U.S. companies in the S&P 1200, which includes the 1,200 largest companies in the world, to give an idea of the policies and benefits offered by large corporates before and after the pandemic began. This research also uses S&P Global Market Intelligence data showing the performance of companies and their respective sectors, and relies on interviews with executives from large U.S. corporations.
This study found that many institutions have responded to the pandemic by increasingly offering more flexible working arrangements for their employees. Companies also recognize that meeting employees’ needs supports their bottom lines, and offering more family-friendly benefits tends to produce higher returns. However, this study also found that some companies aren’t as familiar with the issue of family caregiving for adults, and instead favor supporting parents. As such, many firms don’t have a formal written policy focused on employees providing care to aging relatives, family friends, or loved ones.
- As many corporations have responded to the growing needs of their employees by expanding the benefits they offer, including much-needed flexibility in the workday, the expansion has been uneven among parents and family caregivers. Failing to narrow that gap could potentially push some employees out of the workforce as the number of people needing care is only expected to rise as Baby Boomers reach older adulthood.
- Firms are generally more supportive to parents of young children than family caregivers of adults.
- The lack of formal policies and the lack of awareness of family caregiving could help explain the differences between the heightened support for parents of young children compared with family caregivers of adults.
- Expanding the benefits a company offers can reduce voluntary turnover. S&P Global and AARP found that companies reporting the lowest voluntary turnover rates tended to offer more benefits to family caregivers and parents. Additionally, companies in the survey with more generous family-friendly policies produced stronger returns.
- While there is some hope that the benefits offered to family caregivers and parents alike could permanently change as a result of the pandemic, there are also concerns that the expansion could only be temporary and that companies could revert to their previous approach once the pandemic ends.
Research: Employee Perspective
S&P Global, in partnership with AARP, examined Corporate America’s family leave policies to understand the relationship between family-friendly benefits and female representation in the workforce and senior management. The research is based on the results of an S&P Global/AARP survey of 1,573 individuals—51% men and 49% women—who work for a firm with more than 1,000 employees. The survey was fielded between Aug. 20 and Sept. 8, 2020.
The research utilized gender and equality data from Equileap, which covers nearly 1,400 U.S. publicly-listed companies across 11 sectors, and SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment data, an annual evaluation of more than 7,300 companies' sustainability practices across the globe, to measure correlations between certain policies and female representation in the workforce and senior management. The research also relies heavily on interviews of executives across corporate America about the benefits they have received and utilized, and their experiences in the workforce.
For employees worldwide, the coronavirus crisis is causing a clash of professional and personal responsibilities, and presents an urgent question for companies that want to retain their talent: How do you create policies that allow employees to balance career and family—both during a pandemic and beyond?
- Companies with revenue over $1B are more likely to offer paid parental leave (58% of large companies vs. 42% of smaller companies) and flexible work schedules (43% of large corporations vs. 38% of smaller companies).
- Only 10% of companies offer 14 weeks or more of at least two-thirds paid primary care leave and just 19% offer a minimum of two weeks of paid secondary care leave (defined as the person who is not leading childcare duties).
- Since their commitments have grown, more than 30% of family caregivers are experiencing a strong increase in stress due to the pandemic's impact on their work-life responsibilities. Nearly 43% of respondents reported a moderate increase in stress.
- Regardless of leave offered, on average, senior managers take far less time for parental or family care than more junior employees. Just 23% of senior managers took more than four weeks of leave, versus about 30% of more junior staff.
- A far greater number of younger caregivers felt their caregiving responsibilities led them to being penalized at work: 63% of caregivers aged 18 to 24, compared to 45% of those aged 35 to 54 and just 14% of those 55 or older.
This special episode of ESG Insider, an S&P Global podcast about environmental, social, and governance issues, explores how corporate America is responding to COVID-19 with new policies for employees caring for children and elderly relatives. S&P Global partnered with AARP to research how leave policies are evolving in the U.S. private sector and the potential impact on women in the workforce. In the episode, we unpack the research, which found that the pace of change in leave policies has accelerated rapidly amid the pandemic.
The Sandwich Generation
Pamela Sutton-Wallace is Senior Vice President and Regional Chief Operating Officer at NewYork-Presbyterian, one of the largest hospitals in the U.S. Sutton-Wallace took on the role in January 2020, just weeks before New York City became a hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke to S&P Global about battling the coronavirus outbreak while balancing care responsibilities for her aging mother and two college-age daughters.
Need for Flexibility
Rani Borkar is Corporate Vice President of Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure at Microsoft. Ms. Borkar previously held executive roles at IBM and Intel. She has two grown-up sons.
Marathon at a Sprint Pace
Natasha Lamb is Managing Partner and Director of Equity Research & Shareholder Engagement at Arjuna Capital, a sustainable investment firm she co-owns. She is also mother to two young sons.