A recent study by Bright Horizons, the Modern Families Index, underscores the increasing struggles faced by working parents in balancing career demands and family life.

The annual survey, which examined the experiences of over 3,000 working families, reveals concerning trends pointing towards a growing disparity between the support working parents require and the support they receive from employers.

In 2024, the survey shows a notable rise in the number of working parents actively seeking new job opportunities to address the challenges of the cost of living and achieving a better work-life balance. Approximately 42% of working parents are exploring alternative employment options, reflecting a 4-percentage point increase from the previous year.

Decline in Employer Support

A concerning trend emerges as the perception of employer support for family life has declined. In 2023, 77% of respondents felt their employer was supportive, but this figure has dropped to 72% in 2024. The diminishing sense of support adds to the challenges faced by working parents, indicating a growing disconnect between their needs and the assistance provided by employers.

The study highlights that three in 10 working parents seek help from employers with childcare costs, and nearly four in 10 seek support with the overall cost of living. The data also reveals a significant need for time off due to last-minute childcare arrangements, with 67% of working parents taking an average of 4 days off at short notice in the last 12 months.

Impact on Working Mothers and Gender Disparities

The data underscores the disproportionate impact on working mothers, with 74% feeling the burden of the mental load for parenting, compared to 48% of working fathers. This burden extends to the workplace, where working mothers perceive greater challenges in progressing their careers while working flexibly compared to their male counterparts (63% vs. 71%).

Bright Horizons highlights the potential for burnout among working families, particularly in some minority groups, if inclusive support is not prioritized. The study signals a need for employers to reevaluate their strategies to retain and support working parents, recognizing the impact on mental health and overall work performance.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, emphasizes the urgency for employers to address these challenges. She says, “The results of this year’s Modern Families Index are worrying to say the least. Employers continue to face significant retention and recruitment challenges; retaining working parents and carers has to be a key focus to alleviate these and supporting their mental health and ability to perform at work should be at the heart of employers’ strategy.”