One month in and, with the news that schools will not reopen until at least 8 March 2021, the realisation has hit many working parents that they not even half-way through the home-schooling anguish and many are nearing breaking point.
The pandemic has had a negative impact on working parents and working mothers, in particular, have fared badly. 1 in 6 working mothers have had to reduce their working hours as a direct result of the pandemic with some being forced to leave the workplace completely, but let’s not forget the problem affects working Dads too (especially where the mother is also in full time employment) who may be more reluctant to voice their struggles.
The situation is far from ideal on either side, but what employers do now will affect how employees feel about them in future and there are certainly clear benefits of maintaining your star staff who may be temporarily struggling. So, what can employers do?
Some key areas of support:
- Make sure you follow non-discriminatory practices. A good place to start is the Equality and Human Rights Commission Covid 19 guidance for employers which is available here.
- Ensure supportive messages come from senior leaders in the organisation and open lines of communication.
- Make sure that everyone in the organisation is aware of the different options available to them and remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. Look into possible options such as offering flexible working on a temporary basis, compressed hours, purchasing additional leave, special leave, dependents leave, parental leave and furlough.
- Ensure you are inclusive and supportive. Good people management develops trusting relationships.
- Draw attention to any health and wellbeing support you may have which could range from formal Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and occupational health to more informal messaging on the ability to take regular breaks and simply just encouraging people to get some fresh air during daylight hours.
Remember that lockdown is different this time.
There is more being asked of parents with regard to home learning and there are more fixed online lessons. It is also wintertime and so it’s not as easy to get children to go outside for exercise and generally letting off steam.
Five simple steps for employers looking to support working parents
- Keep it flexible! – Trust employees to manage their workloads around their home requirements. Consider reasonable adjustments. Two working parents might not both be able to work the 9-5, but they may be able to split their day into shifts by starting earlier and later respectively.
- Offer recognition – Appreciate that working parents have three jobs – Parent-Teacher-Worker. In many instances there may not be enough hours in the day.
- Focus on what is essential – What needs to be done to meet the goals of the team/organisation and allow working parents to work shorter hours on a temporary basis if needed.
- Be wary of burnout and/or resentment – longer working longer hours can have negative consequences.
- Be reasonable, fair and equitable whilst taking into account the needs of individual employees – protecting yourself from discrimination claims.
Get in touch
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or advice regarding flexible working, reasonable adjustments or potential discrimination claims, our Employment Law and HR team would be delighted to hear from you.
Melanie Rowe (Senior Associate)
Paula Early (HR Adviser and Paralegal)