· Insights

Piling on the pressure: new research reveals working parents in high-stress sectors need more tailored support

"Working parents and carers need their employers' support more than ever," said Bright Horizons' head of thought leadership

New findings reveal increased pressure is taking its toll. Employees in high-stress sectors are actively seeking companies that will help them better balance career aspirations alongside family life. Employers of parents in demanding industries are at greater risk of losing talent unless they take steps to provide practical support.

Key sectors at risk

Banking and finance, tech, healthcare and NHS are among the sectors most likely to see employees quitting in the next 12 months, according to Bright Horizons’ recent annual Modern Families Index survey of over 3,000 random UK working parents.

Women show increased likelihood to vote with their feet. Mothers in banking are 21% more likely to look for new employment than the wider population and those in tech 55% more likely.

The challenges faced

Breakdowns in childcare are a particular issue. Over three quarters (76%) of working parents in the legal sector and 80% in finance needed days off for last-minute childcare in the last year, compared to 67% overall.

Alongside high-pressure careers, greater numbers of employees in law and finance are part of the ‘sandwich generation’, caring for children and ageing parents simultaneously. In law, over half of parents (53%) declared adult caring responsibilities, compared to 36% of respondents overall.

The true impact

Many parents resort to annual leave to cover last-minute childcare or eldercare breakdowns, missing out on using holidays to rest and recharge. This is especially relevant for those in NHS/healthcare, banking or legal roles, who expressed greater concerns about burnout and physical health. Nor does it work for employers: productivity is impacted when colleagues are absent at short notice.

In healthcare and NHS roles, less than two thirds (64%) of parents now feel confident discussing family with their employer: seven percentage points down on 2023, indicating a loss of confidence in employers.

The solution

It’s clear working parents and carers in these sectors need their employers' support more than ever. At Bright Horizons we see our leading employer clients recognising that to retain their key talent,  they need to offer a comprehensive range of supports for working parents and carers.

All workforces have seen transformational change one way or another in the last few years. There is an opportunity now for the most family-inclusive employers to cement great workplace cultures and empower their employees for what work-life fit means today.

Here are five essential steps for employers to avoid talent loss and better support employees experiencing mounting pressure.

1. Listen to your multigenerational workforce

Pay attention to your employees’ diverse needs and provide them with the supports to thrive.

Acknowledge working carers in all roles – whether for young children, teens, adults or elders – and be aware of the additional challenges faced in the sandwich generation.

2. Make your benefits visible

Make your family-friendly benefits clearly visible. Signpost the resources you provide, including at the recruitment stage.

Needs vary across life stages and family types. Having benefits to help specific groups is critical for employers in high-pressure industries looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

3. Enable the return to office

With higher living costs alongside a trend back to central workplaces, forward-thinking employers offer more support to employees, not less. After flexibility, the most requested enablers for office attendance include help with childcare (28%), school holiday cover (18%) and even pet care (9%). Access to Back-Up Care, together with workplace nurseries, covers all of these.

4. Address moments that matter 

The second highest reason for seeking new work, after higher pay (42%), is ‘Better support with family life’ (32%). This beats commuting costs (19%), seeking a better culture (21%) and even career progression (29%), as reasons for jumping ship.

All careers have ‘rethink’ moments. Coaching individuals and managers through parental leave, or becoming a carer, matters at the time and increases loyalty long-term, defining employee experience.

5. Support career progression

Better benefits and family life supports attract prospective employees. They’re also big enablers for existing employees’ career development. Eight in 10 (80%) in healthcare or NHS roles and 81% in tech carefully consider their childcare options before accepting a promotion or new job (78% in the overall survey).

Easing wider worries also empowers career focus. Think beyond the most obvious: one in six (16%) say that tutoring or educational support for children is a mark of a good employer. The same number say that coaching on managing work and family is an attraction.

With the right mindset and approach, family-inclusive employers create a mutually beneficial environment where business success goes hand in hand with employee wellbeing. Among our clients, leading employers address every one of the issues and supports here through well-thought-through packages of solutions.

If you are an employer and would like to discover more about Back-Up Care, you can access our latest Back-Up Care + Education Guide. Alternatively, to discuss providing Work+Family benefits with one of our team, please do call on 0345 241 5309, or email employerenquiry@brighthorizons.com. Find out more by visiting Bright Horizons’ Work + Family Solutions at solutions.brighthorizons.co.uk.

Jennifer Liston-Smith is head of thought leadership at Bright Horizons