HR BLOG: Advice for parents facing a return to work with schools are still closed

As many parents are preparing to return to work in some, if not full capacity, they are facing the unwelcome dilemma of what to do with their children.

Schools aren’t due to re-open until at least next month, and with visits to other households not yet permitted, how do mums and dads overcome the challenge this presents them with.

HR expert Alison Schreiber of the HR Dept Durham is a member of the Peterlee and Seaham business park groups.

Here she offers advice on how parents can tackle this issue.

Working parents face a dilemma. Many across the country are finding themselves being urged back to work from the middle of May. Yet schools, which have been open throughout for vulnerable children and those of key worker staff, will only start to run classes in June. They are unlikely to be operating at full capacity for months. It is also a dilemma for the companies that employ them. Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept discusses this issue facing many Durham businesses.

Alison begins: “So the UK is taking its first steps out of lockdown, and although different parts of the kingdom are moving at different paces, it’s likely all will face similar issues at different times. Employers have to be understanding, but they will also have to balance this with ensuring their businesses can still operate.

“The first stage, assuming events go to plan, is that Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will return in England at the beginning of June, but with reduced class sizes, lots of safeguards and some social distancing measures in place. From there, gradually more children will return over the coming months.

“This throws up some problem scenarios for working parents: having one child return to school because they are in the right year group and another not; having children in only certain days or for only part of the day due to class-size restrictions; and those parents who do not feel comfortable with their children returning to school at this time (OFSTED have suggested that it’s unlikely fines will be issued).

“However the problem manifests itself, you need to try to make the situation work for your business. Talk to affected employees and see how they could work around it. With everyone pulling together it may be that all parties can find a way forward until things get back to normal. Continued home working, unpaid dependant or parental leave, a bespoke arrangement, see what works. The evolution of the government’s furlough scheme may offer a solution.

“If an arrangement is reached, regular reviews will be essential to ensure it remains satisfactory. Managing the team is sure to be trickier for a time – with some in and some out, good communication will be more difficult. Put processes in place to keep everyone on the same page.

“Of course, it might simply be unworkable to have key members of your team unavailable for the foreseeable future. If you have to let people go, take advice to ensure that you follow the correct procedures – because unfair dismissal can still be punished in the courts.”