Working from home with kids is no easy task. But, if there is anything we have learned from this pandemic: We are more capable of adapting to change than we ever imagined.
As a result of COVID-19, many companies have shifted to the work-from-home model to help stay at home and stop the spread. For the most part, employers have generally been understanding of working parents during COVID-19. Others have not been as accommodating, unfortunately.
By not meeting the needs of working parents such as flexible working hours or HR policies for remote workers, employers may be sending a negative message to potential candidates. As we continue to navigate the many changes that have come along with the pandemic, here are a few ways employers can best accommodate working parents during COVID-19.
Provide flexible working hours for parents
If others perceive a company as inflexible or unaccommodating to parents who work, this can result in a significant decrease in employee morale. Employees may begin to fear that they may lose their job if their parenting duties start to overlap with their professional responsibilities. Overlapping of these two worlds, however, is inevitable for working parents during COVID-19. Employers must support their employees at all times, but especially under these unprecedented circumstances.
In addition to decreasing employee morale, refusing to accommodate employees who must also care for their children while working at home can lead to legal battles. During this time, many employers are subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA). Employers who deny qualifying employees the opportunity to take advantage of the FFRCA leave risk being sued by both employees and the Department of Labor. Employers may also be subject to penalties and damages for unpaid wages on top of attorney’s fees and costs.
Under some jurisdictions, familial status is listed as a protected category under equal employment opportunity laws. As a result, employers who do not abide by these laws may face legal exposure under both state and local laws. They may also be required to reinstate the employee.
As of right now, no end is in sight yet. The future seems just as unpredictable as these past few months have been. If your company has not done so already, now is the time to begin implementing HR policies for remote workers.
Familiarize yourself with the new laws related to remote work policy
Before crafting a plan for working parents during COVID-19, employers should first become familiar with the ins and outs of the FFCRA. It is especially important to know that employers covered under FFCRA are required to provide 12 weeks in total, partially paid leave to employees with children whose daycare or school has closed due to COVID-19. The leave under this act can be taken intermittently, so employers and employees can agree to a more flexible schedule.
Some state and local jurisdictions have also passed their own COVID-19-specific leave laws that may target those not covered by FFCRA. Some employers have also implemented mandated additional leave on top of FFCRA leave.
Although it is still unclear if students will physically return to school in the fall, it is still important to have a plan in place ahead of time. Start the conversation by reaching out to employees as soon as possible. Make it a point to understand what kind of accommodations they may need as they begin working from home with kids in the house.
Develop strong HR policies for remote workers
Once you have a better understanding of FFCRA and guidelines specific to your state, you should start creating HR policies for remote workers that clearly state your expectations and protocols. In a remote setting, it is also critical to communicate updates to your team regularly. This will help keep everyone in the know, as well as keeping everyone connected despite the distance.
Your policy will help determine which employees work from home and what hours you expect them to work. It will also help in solidifying a schedule of virtual meetings and conferences. To avoid getting into legal issues, you will also want to ensure that your policy adheres to state and local laws.
A best practice to keep in mind is communicating your new HR policies for remote workers to your team as early as possible. This will show them that you respect their time as they will have ample notice to make adjustments or accommodations as needed.
If your work-from-home policy is properly established, this should help alleviate any legal issues you, as an employer, can run into in case you terminate an employee working from home. The key here is to treat work-from-home employees the same way you would treat them if they were in the office. With a solid policy in place, everything will be clearly outlined ahead, easing your stress if you are faced with a difficult decision.
Allow flexible working hours
Throughout the workday, parents working from home might need to step away from their desks now and then look after their children. In extreme circumstances, they may only be able to log in before their children wake up in the morning and fall asleep in the evening.
Assuming you do not need an employee to be in mandatory meetings during the 9-5 workday, consider allowing them to have flexible working hours for the time being. Be open and understanding as well with employees when discussing these types of scheduling issues. Work with them to set expectations around their availability.
Partake in ongoing dialogue with your team as everyone works from home
As mentioned previously, it is essential to create HR policies for remote workers. However, you should know that these policies do not need to be set in stone. Chances are you will need to continue updating your policies and procedures as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create inevitable change.
As everyone works from home, you should engage in an ongoing dialogue with your team. Check-in with them more often than you would in the office, and make it a point to check on their emotional state as well — not just their work. Keeping an open dialogue and ongoing conversations will help everyone on the team feel supported in the new normal.
Ensure an accommodating workplace for working parents during COVID-19
During these uncertain times, it is important now more than ever to support and accommodate your employees who are working from home with kids. Throughout the pandemic, you should make sure that your HR team is diligent in keeping in close contact with working parents during COVID-19, as they may have more urgent needs during these challenging times.
Your HR team should be ready to answer all questions, needs, and concerns from parents working from home with kids. This will play a major role in creating an inclusive environment and building up the workplace culture at your company.
Maintaining a healthy balance between work and family life is crucial, and we understand that here at Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS). If you need additional support in creating HR policies for remote workers or developing flexible working hours for your team, please know that we are here to help. Feel free to check out our ICS blog for more tips on overcoming common work-from-home challenges, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have inquiries about us and our services.