Heading into the summer months, parents of young or school-aged children are likely juggling work with gaps in their childcare needs.
While many working parents are adept at cobbling together childcare week by week, sometimes plans don’t quite come together. Some may experience barriers to securing all the care they need due to gaps in availability or access, as well as cost. With in-person programming and camps generally more widely available this summer, many parents have made at least some arrangements at this point, but they may still require support.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many employers have helped employees wrestle with a variety of caregiving needs and have better systems in place to help with remote work. However, summer can bring its own set of scheduling challenges, both for organizations and their workforces.
Here are six ways employers can help their employees with childcare needs this summer:
- Be flexible with work arrangements when possible
While your organization may have a flexible or hybrid work environment, working parents may need periods of time where they deviate from days working onsite or complete their work outside of regular or core business hours. Where possible, allowing for exceptions to set work hours or schedules can allow for parents to better co-ordinate their work needs with childcare needs.
- Provide childcare assistance
During the pandemic, some larger employers like Twitter Inc. and Sun Life Financial Inc. addressed caregiving challenges by giving their employees’ children the chance to participate in virtual camps with organized programming and learning modules to work through at home.
And while it isn’t feasible for all employers to have onsite childcare or provide a childcare subsidy, it might be possible for employers to assist with childcare to some degree by providing parents with information on daycare programs, day camps or overnight camps in the area, as well as recreational programs available by neighbourhood. Another option is to provide some help with transporting children to and from the workplace, such as when several employees have children going to the same daycare, recreational program or camp.
- Create a space for information sharing
Employers can help employees source, share opinions, tips and resources for an array of parenting-related challenges by providing a venue for sharing information. It could be as simple as a group on Microsoft Teams or a SharePoint site with rules for posting information or engagement. It’s important for organizations to also include a disclaimer that clearly states anything shared isn’t endorsed by the employer and that opinions or recommendations are those of the posting participants.
- Consider caregiving responsibilities when scheduling meetings
Whether an employer holds in-person or virtual meetings, considering the participants’ responsibilities outside of the office can be key in helping them manage their home and work lives effectively. When flexibility is possible, employers should consider things like the challenges of getting kids ready in the morning or daycare drop-off and pickup when choosing meeting times.
- Be familiar with available legislated leaves
Depending on their own circumstances, parents might feel the need to take more time away from work than their available vacation days or personal days allow. In consideration of a potential leave request, the organization should also understand legislated leaves available in the province of residence and the terms and parameters of these leaves.
- Provide access to a Plan B
Working parents need to be good at pivoting, whether their regular daycare provider is sick or taking a vacation, a program falls through or they have a sick child at home. Not all employees have a family member or friend to fall back on when plans go south. Employers can provide support and peace of mind to their employees by providing access to back up or emergency childcare when they need it.
Helping employees navigate the stress that comes with summer holidays for schools and daycares is an enormous help to those who need it. Having supports ready for working parents can go a long way to keeping these employees engaged and present at work.