With the six-week summer holidays, two week breaks for Christmas and Easter plus a couple of half terms for good measure, it’s no wonder that employees with young children have a hard time finding childcare for all of those days off.
As an employer, you will more than likely encounter an early morning phone call from a stressed out parent whose babysitter has gone on holiday or phoned in sick and doesn’t have anyone who can step in to take are of the kids.
It is bound to happen and, sometimes, there is nothing you can do except support your employees as much as possible and work around the shortage of staff during this time.
If you’re an employer or manager that needs to seek professional advice from a qualified HR expert about a specific issue regarding children at work or time off for dependents, then call us today on 0845 2626 260
One option, as stated by law, is to offer them time off for dependants which is unpaid leave for a day or two to assist with emergency situations such as a last minute childcare cancellation.
You might even discuss the option of flexible working for your employee during longer periods of childcare difficulties such as the six week summer holidays. If possible, they could work from home a day or two a week until their children return to school.
This means that productivity wouldn’t drop too much and that staff with children will feel more supported and less pressure to prioritise work over their children and home life.
But, one question that you may find yourself being faced with is: “Can I bring my child into work for the day?”
It isn’t a decision that should be made lightly.
Although it may seem innocent enough to allow an employee to bring their child into the workplace (a child-friendly one such as an office) there are things that you need to consider.
The first thing you should bear in mind is that by letting one parent bring their child to work, you could open a floodgate of similar requests. It wouldn’t be fair to say yes to one employee and no to the rest so you should establish a policy on children in the workplace and clearly communicate it to your employees to avoid any HR issues further down the line.
Maybe you decide that your employee must fall under very specific circumstances to bring their child to work i.e. they can’t find childcare, are a single parent, and cannot work from home. This must be written down and included in employee handbooks if you do feel the need to create a policy regarding bringing children into the workplace which is something we do recommend.
It should also express the terms and expectations if an employee does have a child on the premises such as how long they can be there for, where they should be for the duration of their stay and who is responsible for their well-being and whereabouts.
You also need to remember that you will be liable for the child’s safety, so if they were to get injured on the premises this could put you in a difficult position.
Your employers’ liability insurance provider isn’t going to be happy to know that you agreed to have a child on the premises and they were injured whilst there.
You may be able to work around this by including it in your health and safety policy so that employees are aware of their responsibility should their child be on the premises.
This may mean limiting the time that children are allowed on the premises, the areas of the building they can venture into and ensuring that there is an adult present at all times.
Another option to consider, if you are against having children on the premises, particularly if this is a regular occurrence or for a susbtantial length of time (e.g. a week or more), is offering parental leave. This is unpaid leave that must be taken in week portions but requires 21 days’ notice to the employer and has a limit of 18 weeks a year.
This is the ideal solution for working or single parents who want to spend more time with their children during the holidays and can afford to take such extensive unpaid leave from work.
However, when discussing any of these options with your employees you do need to be considerate of the fact that everyone’s situation and circumstances are different.
Though we would generally advise against allowing employees to bring their children to work, you may find that it is unavoidable and affecting employee attendance and productivity.
Hence, you may agree to let them bring their child onto the premises under a strict policy but the above advice should be taken on board.
If you want to discuss this HR issue further or you need help updating your employee handbooks, then we can connect you to one of our HR consultants for some expert advice. Just call us on 0845 2626 260 where we can arrange a HR advice line call.