Provincial governments have announced that schools will resume in September, introducing another hurdle in the pandemic recovery that employers might not have expected. Parents are concerned, and employers may see employees exiting who prefer to homeschool if they don’t feel their children will be safe. According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada, 74% of parents were very or extremely concerned about balancing childcare, school, and work. Under the circumstances, some employees might think they can’t do everything, and employers might not know how to assist them.
To help you and your employees out, here are some common questions you might have to answer about accommodating parents when school resumes.
I don’t want to send my child to school, and I think my best option may be to quit. What should I do?
If your employees are working from home, offer to extend this arrangement on a monthly or quarterly basis, as conditions change. Some parents can monitor their children’s schoolwork and successfully work from home, and have been since schools closed in March. This may be the flexibility that employees need to meet their family obligations. If you are staggering return to work, it may work out well for both of you!
Even if I am working from home, my child needs my attention and support. What if I can’t work the standard hours and meet working from home requirements?
If your employees can work hours outside of the standard workday, then consider flexible work arrangements, where employees select their hours for the week. This may mean working afternoons or evenings to fulfil their weekly hours. This may not be an option for all workplaces, but where it is feasible, it is a fantastic accommodation strategy. If you’re unable to offer flex work, you can try to offer reduced or part-time hours for the parents who need it.
I really need this time to focus completely on my child’s schooling. It will be too much for me to work and teach. I really care for my job, but I have to prioritize my family.
Let your employees know that you support them. One option is to grant them an unpaid leave of absence to take care of their responsibilities. Put together a document that sets a beginning and end date and outlines expectations. Doing so lets employees know that you are holding their spot for an outlined period of time, and having them feel supported will pay off tenfold.
What happens if I send my child to school and there is an outbreak? I will have no choice but to leave.
This is bound to happen in some schools. Employers should prepare to quickly move their employees remotely if there is a second wave or a breakout in schools. In this case, employers have the right to ask for justification of absences, such as proof that the school is sending students home to self-isolate.
Remember this is only temporary. With open communication, planning, and flexibility, you can help employees and their families get through this transition. Take a needs-based approach to return to work. Our expert team is working hard to provide you with the information and resources you need.
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