School holidays are just around the corner, as are potential childcare challenges. Government guidance and a lack of summer kids’ clubs are likely to hinder the usual family, friends or third-party care arrangements meaning employees could be looking to you again for flexibility.
‘Business as usual’, means you’ll need to balance your resourcing needs with possible flexibility for employees genuinely without childcare alternatives. So what are your options?
- Ask for evidence – if you suspect that efforts to manage childcare requirements have been light and your employee has failed to convince you of their genuine need to care personally for their children, you are able to turn down any request for flexibility. Although bear in mind that in doing so you could be refusing a statutory right, so take advice before taking this approach.
- Flexible furlough – it’s still possible to furlough employees for childcare reasons. The new rules give you the flexibility to have a conversation with employees about their childcare needs, and try and come to an arrangement where they’re able to work part of the week, and spend one or two days on flexible furlough. For more detail on how the new rules work, click here. Don’t forget these arrangements need to be made in writing.
- Unpaid parental leave – parents or those with parental responsibility can take up to four weeks’ unpaid leave a year per child. This may work for some, but prove an economic challenge for single parents or carers.
- Holiday entitlement – you could ask employees to cancel holiday booked later in the year and use it over this period, or even bring holiday forward from next year (providing this doesn’t take them below the statutory minimum next year). Likewise, if they share child-caring responsibilities with the other parent you could suggest they stagger their holidays so that between both parents they cater for four weeks’ of the holiday (if both take two weeks’ off).
- Flexible working – working from home, varied start/finish times and compressed hours are a few ways you can work with your employees to help balance the needs of the business and their childcare challenges. Embracing such arrangements may pay dividends year-round, and not just over the summer months.
Undoubtedly, every employee will have a different situation with unique challenges, so we’d always recommend taking early advice from us before tackling the situation.