The Dollars and Sense of Hiring Parents

Posted by Michele Bell on October 5, 2018

Raising children can be the highest reward in life, but parenting and working full time can also be a significant challenge.  One in three employees cares for a child and trying to juggle both roles comes with some real costs. In this blog, we’ll cover the impact of some of the most prevalent costs your company might be experiencing.

The Cost of Sleep deprivation:

Studies reveal that parents of young children have a shorter duration of sleep (less than the recommended duration) and high levels of sleep deprivation (Hagen, Mirer, Palta, & Peppard, 2013). Furthermore, the presence and absence—as well the age and number—of children in a family determines the amount of sleep parents will have. Hagen and colleagues (2013) reported that 41% of parents of young children, compared to 33% of adults with no children, slept less than 7 hours. Even though the difference in minutes might seem small, it adds up: The researchers found that parents lost an approximate 645 hours of sleep in raising a child from infancy through the end of the child’s 18th year, relative to those with no children.

This loss of sleep increases stress and impacts how brains learn and remember, decreasing productivity. When deprived of sleep, employees are significantly more likely to make mistakes and exercise poor judgment — which could end up costing time and energy to correct.

So, what does that mean for your company?  It’s huge. When employees are sleep-deprived, they're more likely to get more stressed than rested peers and it can lead to bad decisions. It’s no coincidence that disasters like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the crash of Air France flight 447 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill have been attributed to sleep deprivation.  Your employees with children might not be responsible for thousands of lives on a daily basis, but it’s likely that being sleep deprived is having an impact on their productivity, stress, immune systems and ability to interact well with peers and customers.

The Cost of Distraction at Work:

Employees with children have another critical full-time job that can take them away from work both physically or mentally at times. In a household with children under six where both parents work full time, the average number of hours spent on household chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and childcare is 4.57 per day for women and 2.91 for men.  And when both parents work outside the home, the average employee misses 8 to 9 days of work per year due to breakdowns in their childcare arrangements or a child getting sick. This missed time costs American businesses three billion dollars every year!  

Developmental issues and concerns can have an impact as well.  Typical issues like sleep, tantrums and potty training can distract employees who come late to work, are spending hours at doctor’s appointments or researching solutions to their problems.  It’s especially acute for caregivers for one of the 25% of children who have a developmental delay such as a speech issue, ADHD or autism, since caregivers report visiting 4-5 different clinicians just to get a diagnosis and then need additional visits for treatment and support.  

So, what does this mean to you?  Employees who care for young children are torn between their priorities and it causes stress, distraction and absenteeism.  Plus, they are unlikely to share their day to day challenges for fear of being stigmatized or being seen as a less than committed employee so you might not  even be aware that they’re struggling.  

The Cost of Losing Talented Employees from the Workforce:

While many employees return to work after having children, a lot of them don’t stay. Companies tend to focus on supporting new parents with parental leave, nursing rooms and the transition back, but can forget about caregivers of children after that first year. Parents find they are often unprepared for the strain these responsibilities have on their jobs and their relationships with family members.  Juggling schedules and worrying about their child’s development leads many parents to think they’d be better off at home.

It’s especially hard to recruit and retain top female talent.  Mothers are 30% more likely than fathers to turn down a promotion, and more than twice as like likely to quit their jobs altogether because of their household responsibilities. While more than 75% of expecting women in the workforce say they are excited to go back to work after giving birth, 43% of them end up leaving their jobs.

For employers, this adds up.  For every employee that leaves, it will cost your company up to 9 months in salary and you’ll be lucky to find a replacement employee who is equally talented and experienced. These costs include hiring, onboarding, training, ramp time to peak productivity, the loss of engagement from others due to high turnover, higher business error rates, and general culture impacts.

The Cost of Recruiting in a Competitive Market:

Attracting and retaining top talent is also a concern. In fact, the World Economic Forum reports that 77% of CEOs surveyed expressed concern that skills shortages could hinder their organization’s growth and 52% plan to hire more employees over the next year.  Companies recognize that employees who care for children are likely to be some of the best they have - experienced and skilled at prioritizing, context switching, multitasking, and people management. But these parents are getting more particular about where they work, especially millennials who make up the largest segment of the US labor force and who are in their childbearing years.  According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, 53% of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them.

So for employers, benefits that contribute to good work/life balance and support working caregivers build loyalty and make your company more attractive.  And not having them can cost you in a competitive hiring situation.


In conclusion, recognizing the unique challenges of supporting employees caring for young children is vital to recruiting and retaining what might be the most important segment of today’s workforce. And providing support for caregivers raising a young child pays off.  If you’d like to learn more about how Cognoa’s unique benefits can help you support your employees and attract and retain top talent, click below to schedule a call.

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