With the school half-term holidays around the corner, we’re taking a look at whether employees should be able to take their children into work.
After 18 months of being in and out of lockdowns and working from home wherever possible, the government are now keen to tell us we all need to be back in the office – some have even suggested that people who choose to work from home should be paid less. One of the reasons cited is that remote workers save money on commuting costs, so this should be taken away from them – an absurd claim as commuting costs are rarely, if ever, factored into an employees wages.
But let’s run with the idea for a minute and say that home workers are paid less because they save on the commute. People return to the office and everyone is happy. Or the government are at least.
What about those workers with children who saved loads on chlildcare costs as they were able to be at home and fit their work around their family life?
Having a family and holding down a full-time job can be tricky where childcare is involved – it’s not so bad once your kids are at school age, but even then you have to fit work around the school run.
If your kids are at pre-school age, things can either get really tricky, as you try to juggle childcare and work, or really expensive, as childcare costs can be prohibitively high – even to the point where full-time work is no longer the most financially viable option.
So, should parents be allowed to take their children into the workplace? We took to Twitter to find out, and most who voted seemed to be in favour:
Should parents be allowed to take children into work to save on child care costs? #halfterm
— ConferenceCall.co.uk (@ConfCallUK) October 14, 2019
If not, should parents who return to the office be paid more to cover childcare costs? Again, we took to Twitter:
— ConferenceCall.co.uk (@ConfCallUK) October 13, 2021
It might sound like a stupid question, but if money is to be taken away from people who suddenly don’t need to commute, surely money should be available for people who suddenly find themselves with childcare costs to cover?
And surely companies that save on energy costs from have staff working from home should also pay their employees to cover the cost of that extra gas and electricity they’re using while working from home?
Obviously, the answer is no-one should be paid any more or less for doing the same job, regardless of their circumstances.
But back to the kids. Each workplace is different and while the office environment might be fine for a child to spend a few hours, the factory floor certainly isn’t. One thing all employers have in common though, is that they will face an influx of holiday requests as the school holidays. While this can be inconvenient, you need to carefully consider the alternative before allowing employees to bring their kids to work – having a child on the premises could not only pose certain health and safety issues, they may not be covered.
It could also pose a productivity issue, if employees are having to take time out of their day to check on their kids, and allowing one person to bring their child in could open the floodgate for more requests – before you know it, the office could resemble a creche.
Here are some things to consider when working out whether to allow employees to bring children into work.
What’s the company policy?
If you let employees bring their children to work, this should be enshrined in company policy so there can be no ambiguity about who has responsibility for the child while they are on the premises and where they are permitted to be.
Company policy should also clearly stipulate that bringing a child into the workplace is a last case scenario – employees should first consider other options – and cannot become a regular occurrence. Employees should strictly limit the amount of time a child can be in the working environment.
Can you offer emergency time off instead?
All employees have a the right to take one day off as ‘time off for a dependent’ in times of an emergency, including situations that involve a spouse or child. This could be an option for an ad-hoc time off parents may need.
Can you offer parental leave?
If there is more of a long-term need for child care, parental leave allows working parents to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to look after their child’s welfare until they reach 18. Parental leave is usually taken in blocks of one to two weeks unless it is for the care of a disabled child, when it can be taken in blocks of a day. In the UK, any parent who has worked for a company for more than 12 months is eligible to take parental leave, but they’ll nee to give you 21 days’ notice before they take leave.
Can you offer flexible working?
Flexible working is an effective way to accommodate working parents during the school holidays, as employees can work from home where their kids will be less intrusive on the working environment. Any employee that has been employed for 26 weeks or more has the right to request a change in working arrangements, but you don’t have to agree to grant it if it will disrupt your business.
Here’s how employees should go about requesting flexible working, and if you do need to reject a flexible working request, here’s how you should go about it.
If you do offer flexible working, it’s important to make sure employees have all the tech and equipment they need to do their job as effectively as they can from the office – here are our essential tools for remote working. And having a cost-effective and reliable conference call provider in place means there’s no need for them to miss out on important meetings.