As you build a culture that is inclusive and supportive and encourages employees to strike a balance between their work and personal life, it is important to be understanding and offer flexibility to working parents during these challenging times. Many school districts have already announced that they will start the school year with distance learning. Companies are seeking ways to support working parents as they juggle online and hybrid school schedules.
Here are some recommendations for companies to consider as they support these employees.
Schools are announcing their plans for re-opening, even if that is in a virtual setting. Most likely these plans will come with a schedule. Look for ways to accommodate the employee’s changing availability due to the academic schedule of their children, while also maintaining business operations. Many working parents have found that working in the early morning or in the evening is extremely productive. It also allows for them to focus on some school activities during the day. Some parents may also prefer to have meetings during a certain time of day, or they may prefer to block off portions of their workday to focus on their child’s academics. It is important for managers to support these requests if possible. With re-examined office hours may also come adjusted work weeks. Companies should be open to work week adjustments and seek to accommodate these if it makes sense for their business.
Consider reimbursing your employees for online tutors or paying for online tutoring subscriptions. These tutoring programs can supplement virtual instruction and alleviate some of the burden working parents feel while facilitating their child’s learning. During online tutoring sessions, working parents can focus on what they do best while their child is supported academically. Tutoring programs vary geographically and by age so talk to your employees about what options would be helpful.
Many working parents are turning to learning pods or cohorts to support their children’s online learning. A learning pod is a group of working parents that either share teaching responsibilities or they hire a teacher to facilitate learning. Examine if your company could sponsor this type of solution for working parents within the organization. An ability to sponsor this type of program will differ based on the demographics of children as well as geography. If your company is unable to sponsor this type of program internally, they could also consider reimbursing employees for the cost of hiring an outside teacher.
Some job functions cannot be done remotely and employees performing those job functions must be in the office. Examine how you plan to support these employees. Some organizations, such as the YMCA, are providing support for virtual learning at their facilities.
Develop opportunities for working parents to build connections with other working parents within your organization. These could take form of a weekly video chat over lunch where working parents create an open dialogue about their experiences and build a community. Employees feeling a sense of togetherness will help them feel less isolated during this time.
Some schools have announced that the entire fall semester will be virtual while others have said that they will start virtual and may shift to in-person learning. It’s important for companies and working parents to be flexible as the situation continues to evolve. Solutions you implement now, may not make sense in later months. Managers must continue to have an open dialogue with employees during this time. Managers should ask employees how they are doing and check to see how they can support their employees. Communicating regularly will help companies remain fluid and flexible as they make changes to support employees.
It is important for employers and employees to be mindful that how employees’ children attend school might impact either their ability to apply for or the consent required to take the requested paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The Department of Labor (DOL) issued updated guidance and regulations regarding how different types of school attendance can impact FFCRA leave. Parents who opt for distance learning, when in person learning is available, would not be eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA because their child’s school is not closed due to COVID-19 related reasons. The DOL also reaffirmed that employer consent is required in order for an employee to take intermittent FFCRA leave. However, the DOL clarified that the definition of “intermittent leave” does not include leave taken to care for an employee’s child who is participating in hybrid learning in which schools operate on adjusted or alternating schedules. In such situations, a full single day of leave is not considered intermittent, and an employee does not need employer consent to take such leave.
The DOL addresses various scenarios regarding return to work in their questions and answers.
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