How can employers help working parents during the summer holidays?

Wed 20th Jul 2016

The summer holidays can be a difficult time for working parents. Philip Sayers asks what employers should do if their staff are struggling to find childcare.

“Many working parents struggle with childcare over the long summer holidays. The cost of holiday clubs can be high and some childminders have holidays themselves, so may be unavailable. As an employer, what should you do if a desperate parent asks to bring a child into work when they are stuck?

“You may well feel sympathetic to your employee, particularly as they have been open and honest with you and are keen to continue coming into work. Perhaps the staff member will reassure you that their child will be “no trouble” and will sit quietly for a few hours while they work. Unfortunately if you agree to this you are opening yourself up to two problems. First of all, by saying ‘yes’ to one member of staff – even if it is just for a few hours – you are opening yourself up to similar requests from others. If you have allowed this to happen previously, there is a risk that it is seen as acceptable and you may be seen to be acting unfairly if you then say ‘no’ to someone else.

“However, the more serious issue is around liability. If your employee’s child was to have an accident in your workplace, the business owner is deemed responsible under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

“So what should you do if you are faced with a genuine request from a member of staff who is struggling to find childcare in the school holidays? One option would be to offer a temporary alteration in working arrangements through a flexible working request. For example, they could reduce their hours temporarily or work longer days in order to have an additional day off each week. As an employer, you are obliged to consider flexible working requests but do not have to agree to them if they do not fit with business needs.

“It may sound tough, but the risks of having children in the workplace are just too high. The safest and fairest option is to invite the member of staff to submit a flexible working request, and look to find a solution that will alleviate their childcare pressures while allowing the business to continue to run smoothly.”

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers on 0800 328 3282 or email info@coodes.co.uk

Wed 20th Jul 2016

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