Skip to content

COVID-19 Could Deal a Serious Blow to Women in the Workforce

Expanded Family Leave Policies Are Critical for Women Caregivers During the Pandemic

Reimagining family leave policies for caregiving during the pandemic is critical for working women.

Caregiving during the pandemic has heightened the pressure facing workers, especially women, as they navigate changing workplace policies and increased demands at home, new research reveals. 

The research, conducted in three parts by S&P Global in partnership with AARP, included in-depth interviews with  1,573 individuals, including female executives. 

The landscape revealed is both encouraging and sobering. 

Flexible schedules are the new work week. 

Not surprisingly, researchers found companies are embracing flexibility, allowing telework and nontraditional hours. Close to 37% of companies, regardless of size, added flexible work hours to their policies since the pandemic began, the survey found. 

With flexible locations and hours, turnover tends to be lower, the data showed, making it a key to helping employees cope with the demands of work and home.

Some employers have also embraced family caregiving benefits that extend beyond offering parental leave to new parents, progress that could help caregivers of adults and children well beyond the pandemic.

​The pandemic has heightened caregiving duties.

As companies quickly adjusted to the need for flexibility, workers still had to navigate a tug-of-war between loved ones’ needs and a job’s demands as those worlds collided at the kitchen table. But embracing work-from-home policies and flexible hours may not be enough to quell the exit of employees, and women in particular, from the workforce, the researchers warn.

More than half of parents and family caregivers surveyed said since the pandemic they spend more hours at home taking care of children or providing family care to adults. Nearly 30% of respondents report a strong increase in stress and 43% report a moderate increase.

While the researchers identified the burden facing women, they also acknowledged the toll on men. As caregiving needs have grown, 70% of men compared to 61% of women said they had at least some difficulty balancing work and their home life.

Yet the report points to a looming disaster for women. The report suggests that addressing the gender pay gap and requiring family leave policies to mandate paying employees while they care for a sick loved one would help ease the burden. Additionally, the pandemic has led companies to rethink the work week.


The S&P Global/AARP survey included 51% men and 49% women who work for a company with more than 1,000 employees. It was fielded between August 20 and September 8, 2020. The interviews were conducted over the summer by S&P Global and the Equileap data relied on information gathered between 2018 and 2020.

For more information, please contact Laura Skufca, For media inquiries, please contact


Suggested citation:

Skufka, Laura. Something's Gotta Give: COVID-19 Could Rapidly Expand Family Leave Policies — It could Also Deal a Serious Blow to Women in the Workforce. Washington, DC: AARP Research, October 2020.