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Coronavirus crisis caused 40% of parents to change their job situation, survey finds

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Working parents are feeling the sting of the coronavirus pandemic — and it's hitting women especially hard.

School shutdowns have left many trying to juggle work, childcare and helping their kids with distant learning.

Since the crisis began,  40% of working parents have had to change their employment situation, according to a new survey from career website FlexJobs. Of those polled, 25% voluntarily reduced their hours and 15% quit entirely. Of those who quit, 38% don't plan to rejoin the workforce.

The career website, which partnered with SurveyMonkey, conducted the survey from Aug. 20 to Sept. 7 and received 2,707 responses from adults with children age 18 or younger living at home.

Working mothers were disproportionately affected.

To that point, 63% said they were primarily responsible for childcare during the spring shutdown, compared to 43% of working fathers, and 80% of working mothers primarily handled the online learning responsibilities of their children, compared to 31% of working fathers.

Meanwhile, 17% of working moms quit during the pandemic, compared to 10% of working dads.

Women have long struggled to find equality in the workplace. They make 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. Meanwhile, mothers are paid only 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, according to the National Women's Law Center. That translates to a loss of $18,000 a year.

By quitting or reducing their hours, not only will women fall behind financially, they'll also miss out on promotions, said certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial, a New York-based wealth management practice dedicated to services for women.

"While many of us look at this, saying this is a temporary situation, unfortunately the economic fallout is going to be felt for years," she said. 

Women will likely have a harder time rebounding than men, she said, pointing to what happened during the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, in the first two years of the recovery, men saw faster job growth than women, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. By the third year, women largely caught up with men. 

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Those who have left their jobs also have to contend with a high unemployment rate. In August, the official national rate was 8.4%, but economics believe the true rate would be just over 11% if workers who have dropped out of the labor force were included.  

When people step away from their jobs, they may have a tough time finding a new one since competition is stiff, said Francis, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

In the meantime, it's really important to watch your spending, especially as the economy is opening back up, she said. 

"If you look at your spending during the most stringent stay-at-home orders of the coronavirus ... I can guarantee it is going to be significantly less than what you spent a year ago and most likely also less than what you are spending now," she said. 

By taking away added financial pressure, you can pay down debt and start, or build up, your emergency fund.

Looking ahead

Brothers learning at home
Vesnaandjic | E+ | Getty Images

If distance learning stretched into the entire 2020-2021 school year, there would be more ramifications for parents.

Of those polled by FlexJobs, 50% said they'd continue to work from home and 22% said they will have to request to work from home full-time in order to watch their children and help with virtual learning. Meanwhile, 7% said they or their partner will quit their jobs.

Not surprisingly, 58% of working parents said having a flexible schedule would have the greatest impact on their ability to handle their job, virtual learning and childcare responsibilities.

If you don't have that flexibility with your own employer, but feel like you can make it work for your position, ask your manager to work with you, said Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at FlexJobs. Even if you are working reduced hours, you can still ask about flexible scheduling.

If your employer isn't budging or your job isn't one that can be done remotely, look for a job that can be flexible. They are out there, Reynolds said.

"Remote job listings have increased every single month during the pandemic," she said.

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In August, FlexJobs saw a 12% increase in remote job listings in August over July and a 20% jump in July over June.

If you are out of work, be sure to stay in touch with your former colleagues and let them know you are interested in what's going on in the business, Reynolds suggested.

Also, follow what is happening in your career field.

"If you left in the beginning of the pandemic, you might be returning to a very different office environment," she said. "Keeping track of that can really be helpful."

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