As the current restrictions to our daily lives begin to ease, there's one thing that is still uncertain and that is how long we might have to continue balancing work and home schooling.
This was never going to be an easy task and while there is a respite coming up in the form of part time schooling and then the summer break, September could still bring with it a myriad of problems if school reopening doesn’t go entirely to plan, especially as we begin to see the reopening of office spaces and employees are expected to be returning to their regular patterns of work.
Where employees have no alternative but to be at home for specific periods in order to care for children, we would advise that employers continue to allow them to work from home, where possible. This will obviously differ from employee to employee, depending on the number of children they have. If couples are able to alternate their time between work and home schooling, allowing them both to attend work on different days of the week, then it would be advisable for employers to encourage this.
It should also become possible to allow other family members or friends to care for children whilst parents attend work. It might mean that an employee needs to temporarily alter their working hours in order to balance additional childcare and employment. Employers should discuss this with their employees to try to come up with a mutually beneficial pattern of work.
It is important to remember that this juggling act can also cause stress to employees so we would urge employers and employees to maintain open communication and discuss anything that is proving difficult.
It would also be worth remembering that all parents are entitled to Parental Leave which equates to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for each child under the age of 18 years. Parents can take up to 4 weeks of parental leave per year. Whilst this is unpaid leave, it might be worth discussing this with employees to try to ease the stress and allow them to have periods of time where they don't need to focus on work at the same as home schooling their children. It would also be advisable for employees to take annual leave. Whilst it may not seem like much of a holiday, annual leave is intended to allow individuals time completely away from working whilst still getting paid. This paid rest from work will provide them with the space they need to concentrate on their children's needs and in turn reduce stress levels.
It is vital that employers continue to communicate with their employees so that possible future problems can be considered ahead of time and plans put in place. This will help ease the burden of both parties and hopefully ensure that both work and childcare are satisfactorily covered.