Top tips to support workers without childcare

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

July 27 2020

Most employers, workers and customers have embraced the recent reopening of workplaces.

But with schools and colleges closed until September, and friends and family staying socially distant, thousands of working parents could find themselves without childcare this summer.

It’s a tough situation for an employer like you. On the one hand, you need all your staff at work to kick-start your business post-lockdown.

But on the other hand, parents might not be able to focus, or may even refuse to work at all, unless they know their children are safe.

So, how can you compromise?

Here are our top tips to keep working parents happy and your business running smoothly…

1. Offer flexible working hours

First, consider giving your employees more freedom over how and when they work. Then, they can plan their workload around their childcare.

You could let your employee work from home so they can keep one eye on their children. Or you could assign them earlier shifts, so they’re free to pick up children from nursery. It’s up to you and your staff to agree on a work pattern.

Remember, all employees have the right to ask for flexible hours after they’ve worked for you for 26 weeks. But you’re welcome to allow it earlier if you wish.

You may even find flexible working benefits your business, as staff can work at the time of day when they’re most productive.

To learn more about whether flexible working could work for you, visit Peninsula’s guide to flexible working.

2. Ask staff to take annual or unpaid leave

During lockdown, your workers will have accrued holiday leave, but may not have used it. So, you could ask them to take annual leave if they need time out to care for their children.

Or, if your workers don’t have enough annual leave left, they can take unpaid parental leave.

All parents have the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid time off to look after a child under the age of 18 once they have been with you for a year. Workers who use unpaid parental leave normally take it a week at a time and get a maximum of four weeks off per year, per child. However, you can let them take longer if you wish.

3. Use the furlough scheme

If you have enough staff to cover their workload, you may be able to re-furlough your working parents—but only if they’ve already been furloughed for at least three weeks before 30th June, as the scheme has closed to new applicants.

If you can re-furlough your staff, you now have the choice whether to furlough them full time, or bring them back to work on a part-time basis. This is known as flexible furlough.

With flexible furlough, you decide your employees’ hours and shift patterns, and the government pays part of their wages for the hours they don’t work.

Through August, the government will cover 80% of furloughed employees’ wages, up to £2,500 per month. However, you will need to start paying your employees’ National Insurance and pension contributions. 

In September, government support will drop to 70% and in October it will drop to 60%. You’ll need to top up your employees’ wages so they still receive 80% of their normal pay. The scheme will then close on 31st October.

4. Get expert staff management advice

The truth is, every parent’s case will be different. So, before you go any further, make sure you speak to an HR expert at Peninsula.

Our clients get unlimited access to a 24/7 HR helpline to help them quickly overcome any staff management challenges.

And even if you’re not a Peninsula client, you can still get a free consultation to help you tackle return-to-work issues. Click here to claim your expert advice call today.

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