In a disheartening revelation, Bright Horizons’ annual Modern Families Index survey discloses a concerning trend for working parents, as an increasing number find themselves on the lookout for new job opportunities to cope with the soaring cost of living and achieve a better work-life balance.

According to the survey, a substantial 42 percent of working parents are actively seeking alternative employment in 2024, marking a noticeable uptick of 4 percent from the previous year. Their quest is fuelled by a desire for higher pay and enhanced support for family life, shedding light on the pressing issues faced by a significant segment of the workforce.

The findings also shed light on a worrisome decline in perceived employer support for family life. While 77 percent of respondents felt their employers were supportive in 2023, the figure has dwindled to 72 percent in 2024, indicating a perceptible shift in the past 12 months.

One of the glaring challenges highlighted in the survey is the struggle with last-minute childcare arrangements. Two-thirds of parents admitted to taking time off due to unforeseen childcare issues, with a staggering 49 percent resorting to using precious annual leave to cover these emergencies.

The disconnect between the support working parents require and what they currently receive from employers is a growing concern, evident in the survey’s data. Three in 10 working parents are actively seeking assistance with childcare costs, while nearly four in 10 are grappling with the burden of the rising cost of living and turning to their employers for help.

The mental load

Notably, the study exposes a significant impact on working mothers, with 74 percent of them admitting to carrying the mental load of parenting, compared to 48 percent of working fathers. The consequences of this unequal distribution are evident in their work and home lives, as well as their mental health. The gender gap extends to the workplace, where working mothers feel less able to advance their careers while working flexibly, with a stark difference of 63 percent against 71 percent for working fathers.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, expressed her concern, stating, “The results of this year’s Modern Families Index are worrying to say the least. Employers continue to face significant retention and recruitment challenges; retaining working parents and carers has to be a key focus to alleviate these.”

Bright Horizons cautions that a reduction in inclusive support may lead to burnout among working families, especially impacting some minority groups. Liston-Smith emphasises, “The imbalances in expectation and reality need to be addressed, and employers need to be supporting employees from all angles.”

As companies navigate the challenges of higher living costs and a push for employees to return to the workplace, the call is clear: employers must adapt and evolve, ensuring that employees can seamlessly integrate their careers with family life. The study’s findings underscore the urgency for employers to address the evolving needs of the workforce and provide the necessary support to avoid a detrimental impact on both employees and businesses.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.