TRUCKING HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD WITH CREATIVE CHILDCARE BENEFITS
Unlike economic recessions past, women bore the brunt of the job losses in the COVID-era downturn. And even though overall employment numbers have recouped most of the losses since the severe spring 2020 mini-recession, women have lagged in that recovery.
The number of women who haven’t returned to the workforce outnumber men by over a two-to-one margin in the Department of Labor’s most recent monthly employment report. Compared to February 2022, some 1.7 million fewer women were in the workforce in February 2022, according to the DOL, compared to roughly 800,000 fewer men.
The reasons are few-fold. For starters, COVID impacted sectors of the economy with larger percentages of female workers – service sector jobs like restaurants and hospitality, as well as education and healthcare sectors. Also, due to school closures and an ongoing shortage of childcare options (also due to daycare workers having to exit the workforce to take care of their own children), childcare responsibilities more broadly fell to women in the household instead of men – another roadblock to their ability to retain or regain employment.
The lingering limited availability of childcare nationwide, likewise, has hampered fleets’ ability to recruit and retain women in driving jobs and other roles across their organizations.
But by offering more robust support and creative childcare policies and benefits, motor carriers have an opportunity to confront this issue head on, to attract more women into trucking, and to be a leader among industries in helping change these dynamics. Plus, it’s not just about filling driving jobs. Women work across roles at all levels in trucking, so it behooves the industry to work to address the critical childcare shortage affecting parents’ ability to fully return to work.
There’s a “Help Wanted” sign on nearly every door at every business in the country, and carriers must find a way to set themselves apart in the labor market, and every fleet must find its own path to address this real obstacle to people entering and staying in the industry.
We’ve started to see fleets navigate a few different approaches to building these benefits for their employees, but this list is by no means exhaustive nor prevalent. If your fleet has implemented a creative approach to supporting parents and aiding in childcare, we’d love to hear about it — drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stipends for childcare
Pairing any type of weekly or monthly childcare-specific benefit on top of a driver’s paycheck to help subsidize child care — even if it’s a stipend that goes to a family member or grandparent who assists working parents — could be a simple and effective way to help employees, market in recruiting, and cut turnover. How much does it cost to recruit and onboard a new driver? Probably more than it costs to chip in and help parents pay for daycare or other child care costs.
More flexible passenger policies
Fleets often limit both the age and number of passengers allowed to ride with drivers. But parents with children may want to bring more than one child, and younger than a fleet’s policy permits, while they’re on the road working. That likely will become increasingly common as remote learning and flexible school schedules become mainstream, or if a couple works as team drivers or simply wants to travel together while one parent works as a driver. Altering these policies to be more flexible and contemporary could be a simple way to support parents craving flexibility.
Sure, it may not be realistic or feasible for every fleet to be able to fund and staff an on-site daycare or childcare center. But is there an opportunity for some type of small-scale after-school program? Or even a part-time daycare a few days a week?
Offering back-up roles during pregnancy
Women can only stay on the road so long while they’re pregnant, but offering them the ability to transition into lighter-duty office jobs or other roles could be a fantastic support mechanism to keep them engaged and on staff until they go on maternity leave – and make it more likely they’ll return when their leave ends.
In case you’ve missed it, The National Transportation Institute has devoted blog coverage this month to Women’s History Month. Our first piece celebrated prominent figures in trucking history. And last week, NTI CEO Leah Shaver penned this farewell note to her time on the Women in Trucking Board of Directors.