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Following the updated government guidance on furloughed workers, HR expert Kate Palmer gives employers advice on how to support parents working from home with children.
With a large percentage of parents working from home right now, many workplaces appear to vary in their approach to how employees should balance childcare and their working hours. In some cases, employees are being asked to take unpaid leave to look after their children. However, it is important to remember that just because an employee has young children does not mean that they will be unable to do their job. That said, there are a few areas employers need to be mindful of.
Firstly, before allowing employees to work from home, companies should assess the feasibility of such an arrangement. For example, will the employee have to process confidential information and, if so, do they have secure areas in their home to keep this away from children? Will they have access to everything they need at home, such as a computer, or could this need to be shared with the family for work or school purposes? Considering these issues can help employers to determine if employees can feasibly work from home.
When implementing a period of homeworking, it should be made clear that the arrangement will be continually monitored by the company to assess its effectiveness. Workers should be told to regularly report on the amount of work they have got through on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or set targets that they need to hit. If they continually show problems meeting these targets, it may be that their home circumstances are making working difficult for them.
To prepare for times where the arrangement doesn’t work, the company should also state that it reserves the right to terminate the arrangement at any time and consider other options, such as placing staff on furlough. However, if employees are struggling while working from home with childcare commitments, it is highly advisable that employers first consider if changes can be made to their working environment. For example, it may be that their hours can be changed to assist in their childcaring arrangements so they can work when their partner is free to look after the kids. Alternatively, employers could look to reduce their hours to take the pressure off them, although such an arrangement would need to be agreed with the employee.
It is important not to discriminate against working parents, either in choosing who should work from home or how they are treated when they do so. It is ultimately down to employers who should be placed on furlough and who should keep working. To this end, all decisions should be made carefully and in line with business need. Care should be taken to consider the personal circumstances of the employees and remain flexible; if a parent is considered a ‘key worker’ but they are struggling to facilitate childcare, finding a homeworking arrangement that benefits everyone is crucial to keeping them working.