(Photo by Lechatnoir/iStock by Getty Images)

With its lack of mandated support for working parents, the U.S. has a competitive disadvantage­–it has trouble keeping talented women in the workforce. An estimated 43% of new mothers leave their jobs within a year of giving birth. And that was before the pandemic created a full-fledged child-care crisis. “What was a leaky bucket is now a waterfall of talent leaving the workforce,” said Katherine Ryder, founder and CEO of Maven, the world’s largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health.

For enlightened companies, however, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the best employers for working parents, who offer them better benefits and greater flexibility, tend to perform better overall. These companies see 5.5 times more revenue growth, thanks to greater innovation, higher talent retention and increased productivity, according to a comprehensive new survey, “Parents at the Best Workplaces–The Largest-Ever Study of Working Parents,” from Maven and Great Place to Work, an authority on workplace culture. “The results make a strong business case for employers who support working parents,” wrote journalist Lydia Dishman in Fast Company.

The report, based on a survey of more than 850,000 employees, including 440,000 parents across 1,244 U.S.-headquartered companies, explores what sets parent-friendly workplaces apart and how they’re responding creatively to the challenges created by the pandemic. Remote work, remote schooling, and the stresses of front-line work have created a crisis of burnout and disengagement in the workplace, but also an opportunity for innovative companies to rise to the occasion. “Employers need real, proven strategies and solutions, and they need them now,” said Ryder. “The best solutions are not perks. Instead, what stands out are real investments in stretched populations that help attract and retain perspectives at all levels of a company.”

What do the best companies for working parents have in common? Among the survey’s findings:

They Provide More Parental Leave:  The companies who ranked as best workplaces for parents typically offered more days of maternal and paternal leave. Working mothers lose nearly a month of income on average when they extend their allotted maternity leave, adding a financial burden to the challenges new parents face. Providing more maternal leave helps close the gender pay gap, since fewer new mothers wind up sacrificing income and dipping into unpaid leave. Working fathers need more management support to take parental time off, since they are using only 30% to 50% of the leave offered.

They Offer More Help for Parents Returning to Work: These workplaces offer benefits that support parents when they need it, including telemedicine for pregnant and postpartum families (49% of best workplaces), return-to-work career coaches (48%), and breast-milk shipping for traveling moms (52%). Other benefits include lactation consultants, infant sleep coaches, and parenting coaches.

They Give More Support to Parents-to-Be: One in eight U.S. women of childbearing age are affected by infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And it’s expensive when they are, with patients often spending more than $50,000 on treatments. Eighty-one percent of best workplaces for parents are providing reimbursement for fertility treatments. Over the last three years, nearly half have increased their coverage.

They Provide More Help With Childcare: Childcare has always been critical for working parents–and it has become even more important during the pandemic as parents have had to navigate changing daycare and school protocols. Among best workplaces for parents, 78% offer support finding childcare, 56% offer backup childcare, and 61% support parent employee resource groups (ERGs). University of Chicago Medicine, for example, has offered employees reimbursement for 15 extra days of backup childcare, on top of the 15 days a year already provided.

They Recognize That Supporting Parents Aligns With Their D&I Efforts: Since underrepresented racial groups are more likely to be working parents than White employees, better support for parents helps employers address the different needs of a diverse workforce. For example, the survey indicates that 33% of Black mothers are experience burnout, in comparison to 25% of White mothers. When working parents are free from burnout, they are 20 times more likely to intend to stay at the company.

They Engage Non-Parents as Well: Since extra help for parents can create questions of fairness, the best companies create a culture of cooperation between parents and non-parents, especially around issues such as meeting times, deadlines and workloads.

They’re Looking for Better Mental-Health Solutions: Many major employers, including Starbucks, Target, McDonald’s and Salesforce, have increased their mental-health offerings in response to the pandemic. PwC recently introduced well-being coaching sessions in which employees can talk with a counselor about whatever may be causing them stress, according to Business Insider. On Maven’s platform, there was a 320% spike in mental-health appointments in the month after the pandemic arrived.

They Offer Creative Solutions: Many employers in Corporate America have responded creatively with programs to help parents with issues ranging from remote learning to childcare. Marsh & McLennan, the global insurance giant, built the digital Marsh Kids Korner to offer activities and exercises categorized by age groups up to high school, plus yoga and meditation for kids and adults. The National Basketball Association organized a virtual take-your-child-to-work day, while Allstate Insurance helped parents produce original learning content. To provide more job flexibility, McDonald’s empowered workers to negotiate directly with their managers to accommodate their schedules.

Providing these benefits and options for working parents apparently doesn’t just help just the employees with children, but it provides a halo effect throughout these companies. Compared with other workplaces, the best places for working parents get higher grades, vs. other companies, when it comes to perceptions of fair pay, management involvement, benefits and opportunity.

Editor's Note: From Day One thanks our sponsor of this story, Maven.