How can employers support their staff with caring responsibilities at this time?
Childcare is part of our essential economic infrastructure, and a key component of the pathway to recovery. And this has perhaps never been clearer to employers – as one told us last week, when their staff do start to go back to their workplace, access to childcare will be “as essential to them as the roads that get them there”.
As businesses and shops start to re-open, in line with the Government’s gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, working parents with dependent children may struggle with a return to work if they are unable to access the childcare they need. This may be a particular issue over the summer months, and as children begin to phase back to school later in the year. While some childcare settings are starting to re-open, this will be a gradual process and it will be some time before they are open to all families, or operating at capacity. At present, families are also unable to access informal care – such as that provided by grandparents – which can be a vital form of support.
For those staff who have been working from home we have heard from many just how difficult it can be balancing work with looking after little ones, as well as home schooling older children. We regularly hear from parents getting up early, to put in a few hours before the kids are up, and returning to ‘work’ for another couple of hours after bedtime. The lines between work life and home life are becoming increasingly blurred, which can place a lot of stress on families, and doesn’t contribute to a healthy work-life balance.
We are conscious that this is also a challenging time for employers, as they seek to balance a range of issues such as economic difficulties, rebuilding their businesses and restructuring to accommodate social distancing, as well as caring for the needs of their workforce and their own families. This can be an overwhelming time, with countless webinars, emails and meetings to consider the constantly evolving guidance.
We are here to help
Employers For Childcare is here to help. While we can’t tell employers when, or how, to re-open, what we can do is provide advice and guidance both to employers and their staff on what support is there to help those with caring responsibilities.
For example, our Family Benefits Advice Service provides advice to employees about how to find childcare, and what financial support they may be entitled to. We can also talk to employers about options such as continuing to furlough staff who are unable to work at this time, or rolling out more flexible working opportunities for their workforce. As well as supporting staff, this could also benefit employers – the business case for flexible working was strong even before the Covid-19 outbreak but now so more than ever.
Family Friendly Employer Guide
To find out more, our Family Friendly Employer Guide offers practical tips on how employers can introduce more flexibility into their workforce and support staff to achieve the right balance, to the benefit of both employees and the business.
In the meantime, here are a few practical tips to help employers – and their workforce – at this time:
- Speak to staff – they may be anxious about coming back to work, or worried if they are having trouble accessing childcare. Simply reaching out to them, and signposting them to some advice or guidance, could help ease some of that worry. We would encourage employers to talk to staff as early as possible about when they can return to the workplace, and allow time for planning.
- Share details of support available – employers could share details of Employers For Childcare’s Freephone Helpline and encourage them to call, so they can be sure they are aware of any financial support they may be entitled to, and know where to go to look for childcare. We have drafted a paragraph that employers can copy and paste to share with their staff, both those who are working and those who are on furlough:
We know that access to childcare is important for our colleagues with dependent children, and that this has been difficult due to the lockdown restrictions. There is help available however. If you want to find out more about your childcare options at this time, and any financial support you may be entitled to, you can call Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service for free, confidential and impartial advice and guidance. Their contact details are: Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email email@example.com.
- Be proactive about offering flexible working, home working or flexible furlough – employers should think about how they can support staff to return to work, or keep working, while balancing their commitments at home.
Employers can contact our charity’s Family Benefits Advice Service for free, impartial and confidential information. Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.