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Following the announcement of lockdown at the beginning of January, furlough requests from working parents have been rejected by a number of companies. Employers need to be aware of parents struggling to balance home-schooling with working from home. They should be prepared to offer solutions to help them.
Much of the UK is subject to national lockdowns and increased restrictions to help stabilise the rapidly growing infection rate of Covid19. As part of these lockdown restrictions, the government announced that all primary and secondary schools would close to pupils apart from vulnerable students and children of key workers. Once again many working parents are having to balance working from home with childcare and home-schooling.
TUC polled more than 50,000 working mums between the 7th and 10th of January following the announcement. From the 50,000 around 3100 (1 in 16) requested to be put on furlough. Employers are allowed under the Job Retention Scheme to furlough parents who cannot work due to the lack of childcare. However, of those requests around 2200 (71%) were rejected. The results from the poll clearly show that this option of furlough is not being used enough by employers to help support working parents. This refusal of furlough may result in parents having no choice but to take unpaid leave in order to home-school their children. Which could have a significant impact on financial and mental wellbeing.
For working parents, it is not sustainable to work as normal and take care of children. Employers need to recognise that for many parents their time will now have to be divided between home-schooling and working. Flexibility is crucial for working parents struggling with childcare.
Caring responsibilities are an acceptable reason to furlough staff. In the poll by TUC 2 in 5 mothers were unaware that this scheme was available to them on the basis of childcare issues. Furlough should be considered, especially for those who are sole carers or whose partners work outside of their home.
We understand that furlough may not be feasible in certain circumstances. If so, you should try to be as flexible as possible. Flexible working hours could be introduced, allowing staff to work at times more suitable for them (around school hours) or once their partner is home from work. Another way of offering flexibility is to focus more on the output than hours worked. If your staff are unable to work for their usual number of hours but can still produce good output, allow them to do so.
Another team member who has the ability to solely focus on work may be able to pick up responsibilities of those who are having to home-school. This will help to take some of the pressure off of them.
Allowing them to work fewer hours each day but for more days may be easier for working parents. If they were working a full day it would be difficult for them to give their children the attention they require.
Offering extra paid annual leave to working parents. This is so that they are able to take time off to home-school their children. For example, a Swiss insurance firm Zurich has said it would offer its UK staff 2 weeks paid ‘lockdown leave’ for those who are facing childcare struggles.
It is advised that only once these solutions do not work should you explore unpaid leave or annual holidays.
It is imperative that you encourage line managers to have regular chats with their team. In addition to this, encourage parents to communicate with you if they need extra support. This way issues and worries can be highlighted. Solutions are then able to be discussed to help ease some of the pressure that the parents may be feeling.
It is so important to be sympathetic to the situation of working parents. 1 in 4 mums were worried that they would lose their jobs, either through being singled out for redundancy, sacked, or denied hours. Be understanding of the current situation and do not use the circumstances that working parents are in now for permanent decisions. When on work calls take a relaxed approach around children if they are seen or heard. Doing so will reduce parents’ stress as they know they can pause or be interrupted without judgment.
Wellbeing should be a key focus during this time. 9 out of 10 mums said that their mental health had been negatively impacted during the lockdown. They experienced stress and anxiety. Working parents are likely to have increased fatigue due to home-schooling as well as working. They are also likely to be stressed with the situation due to managing time and being worried about the quality of education that their children are receiving.
Track working week – If employees need to change their working days/hours this can be tracked one oneHR. This allows you to have a clear overview of the new times and days that employees will be available.
Remaining annual leave – If you decide to grant employees extra annual leave to support them with childcare, you can easily add this to their profile. Both you and the employee have a clear view of remaining leave for the year.
Furlough tracker – If some working parents are placed on furlough during lockdown this can be tracked on the leave calendar.
All of these features are easy to view and manage. Making it easier to support your employees, especially working parents.
If you have any further questions or queries about the content above or would like to request a demo for oneHR, please don’t hesitate to contact the oneHR team today.