The school holidays can be an incredibly stressful time for employees with childcare responsibilities. Here’s how you can support them during this time.

Over the past 18 months, many parents have had to juggle their time between childcare and work. ONS data found that for those working parents whose work was disrupted by coronavirus, 20% said this was at least in part because of having to work around childcare responsibilities. While ONS data from earlier this year found that 47% of working parents reported that having to home school their children had negatively impacted their job performance.

With the summer school holidays now upon us, these pressures are set to intensify. With this in mind, Noelle Murphy, senior HR practice editor at XpertHR outlines five ways to support working parents at this time.

“The school holidays can be an incredibly stressful time for employees with childcare responsibilities. Anything employers can do to relieve the pressure placed on their staff during these weeks can help to ensure they feel supported, respected, and understood – and this won’t go unnoticed,” she says.

”Businesses that go the extra mile to support their employees can expect to see greater employee satisfaction levels, lower levels of stress and higher rates of productivity, as well as a willingness to go that extra mile for the organisation.”

Putting even just one of the ideas into action could have a hugely positive impact on the work/life balance of those with childcare responsibilities, and relations between the business and employee could well be enhanced as a result, she adds. “The past year has been stressful enough for working parents, and continually supporting them through the school holidays can only be a positive thing.”

Continue to offer the option of remote working

Remote working remains an attractive option for working parents or those with childcare responsibilities, boosting employee engagement, taking away the distraction and hassle of a long commute and allowing them more time with their families. For parents with younger children, the availability of remote working will also allow them to work efficiently and effectively from home whilst also handling any childcare dilemmas that arise during the holidays.

Offer Flexibility around Working Hours

During the school holidays, a traditional 9 to 5 schedule may be difficult for working parents to adhere to. Flexible working arrangements can provide employees’ with more choice about how and when they get the work done, while also continuing the meet the needs of the business. For example, facilitating a 10am-6pm working patten allows for an extra hour in the morning to sort out childcare or other arrangements. 

For business continuity, and to minimise the impact on colleagues, it is important that some meeting times are kept regular, and core hours maintained where possible, but flexibility around start and end times can remove a stress points for those with caring responsibilities.

Offer employees assistance with childcare

One of the most common causes of unscheduled absences for working parents is a collapse in childcare arrangements, with 6% of working parents surveyed by Ellipse admitting to calling in sick in order to look after their child. If an employee has access to reliable childcare, they are likely to take fewer unscheduled absences, be more focused at work, and less likely to experience stress. But finding the right childcare can be difficult and expensive. Employers can assist by setting up a workplace nursery; reserving holiday play-scheme places for its employees’ children and providing funding towards childcare.

Consider a reduction in working hours, or reassessing workload in summer months

For many with childcare responsibilities, the holidays can add even more tasks to their already busy agenda, needing to consider how to balance professional and childcare needs. Ensuring each employee’s workload is manageable reduces the likelihood of stress, employee dissatisfaction and burnout, and enables the working-parent enough time to focus properly on both their children and career. Considering arrangements such as term-time working or annualised hours can allow businesses to plan the ebb and flow of workloads to deal meet the needs of the business and working parents.

Offering family friendly benefits

Benefits are an important tool for supporting employees, including those with childcare responsibilities. These can range from offering childcare vouchers, to providing discounts to popular retailers, enabling parents to cut down the bill for the weekly shop or treat the family. Another popular benefit that can help working parents is annual leave buying and selling, which is offered by almost half (45%) of UK businesses according to XpertHR. This benefit could help those workers looking to spend more time with their children this summer, purchasing any extra time where needed.