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Being a kind and flexible employer is key to managing the home schooling challenge for businesses

Posted: 14th January 2021

Ben Doherty, Partner and Head of Lindsays’ Employment team encourages businesses to go beyond their legal obligations when supporting staff who once again find themselves balancing working from home with home schooling.

To do right by your employees is so often the right thing to do for your business. That’s particularly true for those of us who are parents as the bell sounds on another spell of home learning for our children.

Frankly, it’s a situation none of us wants. We do not want the dangers of coronavirus to be such that lessons cannot be held in schools. Neither do we need the pressure this adds not just to our family lives, but our working ones too.

Yet the balancing act of home schooling and working is one that many of us are going to need to perform over the coming weeks – alongside everything else that Covid-19 has thrown at us. And we know that’s not without challenge for employers with demands to meet.

So, the best advice I can give businesses in supporting staff who find themselves in this situation is: Be flexible, be kind, sensible and reasonable.

Legally, businesses have obligations to support staff welfare. We have dealt with many queries about how best to do this against the complex backdrop of an ever-evolving crisis.

But my view in this respect is not simply about what’s doing right legally, but morally as well.

The fact of the matter is that the prospect of returning to home schooling or younger children not being able to go to nursery – especially having lived among Covid-19 restrictions and stresses for so long – is daunting for tired parents, as well as many children.

Businesses, of course, are obliged to consider requests surrounding flexible working.  Current circumstances, however, mean a flexible approach is also recommended.

While we all have obligations to meet, you can help employees work around their – hopefully short term – home schooling and childcare demands by helping manage meeting timings and client expectations around people’s commitments. Work will be done, but it may be done at a different time to normal, for example.

A positive of the pandemic has undoubtedly been that people have greater empathy. I would encourage managers to speak to staff so they understand their pressure points and how they can be managed. Be kind whenever possible.

Don’t forget that for those for whom meeting the obligations of their regular work is particularly stressful or impossible, flexible furlough is an option.

This enables staff to be placed on furlough for even part of a day, with the Government paying 80% of that time’s salary. It is another way in which support can be given. A mistaken common assumption is only staff previously furloughed are eligible for the flexible scheme. That’s not the case. Anyone is.

The challenges caused by Covid-19 are not easy for any of us. But they can be better borne if we face them together, reducing the risk of staff unrest along the way.

As we look forward to coronavirus vaccines offering hope of a return to some normality as we move through this year, it may well be that putting our people first now will be to the benefit of businesses further down the line. A little compassion can go a long way.

Ben Doherty is a Partner and Head of Employment at Lindsays

BenDoherty@lindsays.co.uk

0141 302 8460

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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