May 26, 2020 - Economy

How the new workplace could leave parents behind

An illustration of hands holding coffee cups

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus could create a new type of workplace discrimination in white collar work — separating those who show up to the office versus those who do not.

The big picture: Even when offices reopen, there will be groups of employees who will continue working from home, such as parents who have kids who are home from school. And these workers could get overlooked by employers.

What's happening: As moves by Twitter, Facebook and Google have already indicated, many companies will use the coronavirus to transition into hybrid remote firms — with swaths of employees staying home forever. But companies that aren't conscious about forging a cohesive remote culture could push those workers aside.

More than 40% of American workers between 20 and 54 have children at home. And at least one parent may have to stay home with those kids if schools don't fully open this fall.

"As we move toward reopening, if history is any indication, it is predominantly moms staying home and making those difficult decisions and having those difficult conversations with supervisors," says Sarah Lux-Lee, CEO of Mindr, a consultancy that works with tech companies to help retain women and parents as employees. "And the implications of that could be very far-reaching."

  • Think of working parents becoming isolated as they miss happy hours or team lunches or — even worse — being passed over for promotions or raises.

On top of that, the coronavirus is ravaging the business of child care. The projection is that 50% of child care centers won’t make it through this, and, all told, America will lose around 4.5 million child care slots.

  • Even the parents who are able to afford child care when their offices reopen and feel comfortable putting their children in group care facilities may not have options.

The bottom line: "Family caregiving challenges will become a huge problem in America as we try to reopen the economy," says Adrienne Schweer, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "Parents will take a hit in perception and bias and take a hit potentially in pay."

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