Skip to main content

COVID-19 forces us to rethink childcare

News & Events     COVID-19 forces us to rethink childcare — women are disproportionately facing the consequences


COVID-19 forces us to rethink childcare — women are disproportionately facing the consequences

There are 13 million families in the US who have at least one working adult and children under the age of six. There are an additional 17 million families with at least one working adult and children between the ages of 6 and 17. This means 30 million American families who have to navigate childcare and education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.footnote1

According to the New York Times, women surpassed 50% of the workforce despite being responsible for 70% of childcare in February 2020, just a month before the pandemic hit the US.footnote3 Given this, it is no surprise that more women are dealing with the impact of working from home and reduced access to childcare.

Five Thirty Eight reports that the unemployment rate for women in April 2020 was “16.2 percent, higher than it has been in any month since at least 1948, before dropping to 11.7 percent in June — a percentage point higher than the rate for men (10.6 percent). Even more striking, labor force participation for women dipped to 54.7 percent in April before rising to 56.1 percent last month. Both of those numbers are reminiscent of the rates for women from the 1980s — back when the very notion of women in the workforce was still gaining momentum.” They also discuss that mothers are paid less than fathers and taking time off to care for children can have ripple effects throughout a women’s career and retirement.footnote4

However, employers can lessen the impact of childcare on their employees, especially their female employees. Enhancement of an employer’s benefit package or promotion of current offerings can provide relief to parents in the workforce. Dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can help employees save 30% or more on the costs of childcare, disabled dependent care, and adult dependent care.footnote2 Even with schools moving to virtual learning and disruptions to traditional childcare options, a dependent care FSA can be a valuable tool. Dependent care FSA funds can be used for:

  • Babysitting provided by neighbors or certain family members during work hours
  • Care when one parent works days and the other parent works nights
  • Care while looking for work during a layoff or strike
  • Au pair fees
  • Nanny fees

For a full list of eligible expenses, visit Additionally, employers can contribute to a dependent care FSA for a combined contribution up to the pre-tax limitfootnotewhich could further reduce the financial burden that employees may be facing.

In lieu of or in addition to a dependent care FSA, employers could consider a dependent care subsidy account for their employees. A dependent care subsidy allows employers to provide post-tax dollars for their employees to reimburse for care that they have secured. A dependent care subsidy account is flexible and allows customization to align with the overall benefits strategy.

Either type of dependent care account can go a long way to reducing the childcare pressures parents are currently experiencing and more importantly may help keep more women in the workforce. If you are interested in learning more about dependent care FSAs and dependent care subsidies, contact us.