According to a poll of 36,000 working parents with primary school-aged children, nearly two-thirds don’t have enough childcare to cover the six-week school summer holiday period this year, increasing to three-quarters among single parents. What are your options in being flexible towards them?
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 20% of working parents said they had already used up their paid annual leave entitlement during periods when their children had to undertake home schooling during earlier lockdowns, while one in five also said they didn’t have their usual network of family and friends to support them with childcare this summer.
As a matter of good employment relations practice, you should be supportive towards those employees who have insufficient childcare over the school summer holidays due to no fault of their own.
How to help your employees cope with childcare in school holidays
Your options include:
- allowing the employee to work, or to continue to work, from home if that helps with childcare and assuming that the role can be undertaken remotely
- agreeing a temporary flexible working arrangement with them, which you can do outside the statutory flexible working procedure, such as reduced or flexible hours or amended start and finish times
- granting a period of special unpaid leave
- permitting them to use some of their paid annual leave entitlement from the following holiday year – but this risks simply pushing the problem into a future period, rather than resolving it
- enabling them to take statutory unpaid parental leave if they’re eligible – the provisions enable employees who are parents (including birth and adoptive parents and those with legal parental responsibility) and who have been employed for at least one year to take up to four weeks’ parental leave per year (or more if you agree otherwise), up to a maximum of 18 weeks in total, and this can be taken up until the child’s 18th birthday. However, parental leave applies to each child, not each job, so you’ll need to check what parental leave an employee may already have used with a previous employer. Normally, employees must give at least 21 days’ notice to take parental leave, but you can agree to accept lesser notice in the current circumstances.