While kids across the country are heading to school in-person this week, it’s far from the return to normal working parents had been hoping for.
The uncertainty wrought by the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic across Canada, means the continuation of remote working for parents alongside remote learning for kids is a strong possibility during the 2021/22 academic year. The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Teachers Federation recently warned that, while many children and teenagers have returned to in-person learning this school year, the possibility of shifts back to remote schooling due to coronavirus outbreaks loom large.
Since many kids were abruptly sent home to learn alongside their working parents during the 2019/20 school year in March 2020, many Canadian employers, including Accenture, have been focused on supporting the big shift.
“Navigating both a public health crisis and social unrest is really putting employers to the test,” said Susan Goodyer, managing director of human resources at Accenture in Canada, in an email interview with Benefits Canada. “More so with working parents, as parenting in a pandemic has not been easy. Since the start of the pandemic, Accenture has offered additional backup crisis care support to help its people and their families.”
In anticipation of the start of the third pandemic-era school year, Accenture is providing an additional 160 hours of backup or crisis care. The program gives parents the option to be reimbursed up to $100 per day to have a caregiver of their choosing, such as an extended family member or a friend, come into their home to provide care.
The professional services company also launched Hoot for Companies this August in partnership with online education platform Hoot Reading. The new corporate benefit provides educational support to the children of working parents via access to pre-scheduled lessons with experienced classroom teachers, along with dedicated on-demand teacher support.
“Our working parents told us that to be successful, both professionally and personally, they needed tutoring support for their children to supplement virtual schooling as they return to the classroom,” said Goodyer.
Since the launch of Hoot for Companies, more than 32,000 lessons have been delivered online to more than 850 children, exceeding 15,000 teaching hours. And on average, children have experienced an increase of three to four reading levels in just 12 to 15 lessons, said Goodyer.
Offering these supports to working parents staring down yet another uncertain academic year is part of Accenture’s effort to support the mental health and well-being of all its employees.
“What we see at Accenture and what we’re hearing from other executives, is that productivity while working remote has been remarkably high — but concerns about the mental health and well-being of our people are also front and centre like never before. This is placing even greater demands on employers, many of whom are stepping in to fill the gaps our people are faced with — for example, parents of school-aged children who are juggling work and distance learning.”