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How Employers Can Provide Support for Working Mothers


Quick look: Three-quarters of working mothers say their top priority at work is family-friendly benefits and support – yet 40% feel their current employer doesn’t offer these things. At such a pivotal point in history for women in the workplace, here’s what small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can do to provide better support for working moms.

Over 70% of mothers with young children work or are looking for work, and working moms account for approximately one-third of the female workforce in the United States. Despite how many mothers are employed, many challenges are stacked against them in the workplace. Let’s explore how SMB employers can provide support for working moms, whether it’s through personalized benefits packages, flexible schedules, or welcoming office environments.

What’s work like for mothers?

It’s impossible to discuss working moms without addressing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on them. Gallup reports that the workforce has lost over 2 million women since the pandemic began, and one-in-four women are considering downsizing or leaving their careers because of pandemic-related consequences. Unfortunately women of color were disproportionately affected, and the sheer volume of women leaving the workplace has lowered their workforce participation back to levels dating back to 1988.

Progress is slowly but surely occurring – last year nearly twice as many women joined the workforce than men, but as of January 2022, women were still short by more than 1.8 million jobs that have been lost since February 2020.

So, how do working moms feel about their employers and benefits? According to recent research:

  • 77% consider family-friendliness through benefits and support their top priority in employers
  • Four-in-ten feel their employer isn’t currently family friendly
  • 45% think their parental leave benefits are difficult to understand
  • 90% would likely leave for the same job at a different company with more family-oriented benefits

The best ways to offer support for working moms

Many mothers want (and need) to work – but now more than ever, they require an employer that can offer flexibility and a family-focused culture and benefits package. Here’s how SMB leaders can provide the best support for working moms.

Identify where you are

To most effectively assist your employees who are mothers, you must first understand what your workplace is like for them.

Take a hard look at your leadership team and determine if any working mothers hold those roles. If not, is that something you can improve upon?

It can also be helpful to use your HR platform’s reporting functions to examine retention rates for working moms and notice any relevant patterns. Are the mothers at your organization staying or are they quitting – and why may that be? ExtensisHR’s DEI Dashboard can help by providing actionable data on pay equity, salary trends, employee turnover, promotions, and previous hires.

Tailored, easy-to-understand benefits

The right benefits are more important than ever to working moms – and they can help SMBs distinguish themselves from competitors. As you plan your benefits package, it’s important to consider the entire family lifecycle – from pregnancy to college – and provide benefits where needed.

To appeal to working moms (and dads), employers should consider offering the following family-friendly benefits:

  • An inclusive family-forming support program that provides:
    • Access to benefits experts, fertility clinicians, emotional counselors, and lawyers
    • Discounted rates at fertility clinics and adoption and surrogacy agencies
    • Personalized care plans
    • Prescription ordering and delivery
    • Support and educational resources for every stage of growing a family
  • A healthcare plan with a flexible spending account (FSA) that can be used to pay for childcare – after all more, more than 10 million women rely on childcare and schools to take care of their children while they work.
  • Mental wellness support, including access to an employee assistance program (EAP) and mental wellness and meditation apps. This is especially important when you consider that 10-15% of new mothers develop clinical postpartum depression.
  • Paid family leave, which is something that’s been shown to positively affect maternal health, paternal caregiving, health outcomes, and breastfeeding rates – but as of May 2022, is only publicly funded in eight states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. That means many new parents rely on their employers to provide a paid leave, which is something employers should consider offering, if feasible.
  • Financial planning for college, including assistance with establishing a 529 college savings plan – something that can also help parents receive federal and state tax breaks, age-based plan options, prepaid tuition, and more.

Communicating these benefits is just as important as providing them. When new hires come on board, they should be informed about these benefits, and if a new benefit is rolled out or an existing one is updated, that should be communicated to all employees. Sometimes emails are missed, so it can be helpful to also offer internal webinars on especially significant benefit updates.

A welcoming office environment

Employees should not only be equipped with benefits designed to help their families, but should also experience a welcoming, inclusive work environment and company culture.

To start, employers should provide a comfortable, private, and clean lactation room. This space doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy – a quiet area with a lockable door, comfortable chair, and refrigerator for breast milk would suffice and put new working moms at ease. It’s important to note any applicable laws regarding break time and space required for nursing mothers.

On a social note, SMB leaders should encourage employees to talk about their families, if they’re comfortable doing so. Making family life a welcome topic and encouraging discussions about parenting can make working moms feel less alone. These conversations can also help mitigate any bias (whether conscious or unconscious) that working parents are less devoted to their jobs – something that can also be achieved by administering a course via an SMB’s learning and development platform.

Lastly, implementing a mentorship program is a great way to enrich every employee’s life – especially working moms. A properly executed program can foster relationships between mothers and provide them with a safe, vulnerable space to discuss work-life balance, their parenting and career journeys, and what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace.


Life is busy – especially when children are involved. If possible, SMB leaders should implement hybrid or remote work options to their employees. This flexibility can enable working mothers take their children to appointments or pick them up from school without using their paid time off (PTO) – but it expands beyond that, too.

According to data from Future Forum, 76% of those surveyed want flexibility on where they work, and 93% want flexibility on when they work. Additionally, 21% are likely to leave their current job for one that offers those arrangements, making flexible working options more important than ever.

Everything working mothers want – from one place

Between potential benefits and company culture changes, tailoring your workplace to better provide support for working moms can feel daunting – but you don’t need to do it alone.

When SMBs partner with a professional employer organization (PEO), they can receive dedicated human resources (HR) support on crafting policies on paid family leave, lactation rooms, mentorship programs, and more. PEOs also administer and manage a variety of Fortune 500-level benefits, including perks sure to appeal to working parents.

The best businesses’ executions are based on numbers – and PEOs can help with that, too. For example, ExtensisHR’s Work Anywhere® platform provides detailed custom reporting to help SMBs analyze a variety of HR trends, as well as the ability to securely manage critical tasks like payroll, benefits, recruiting, and compliance – from anywhere, at any time.

Together we can make the workplace more accommodating and welcoming to mothers. Contact the pros at ExtensisHR today to discover how you can provide better support for working moms.

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