With many schools across the country delaying start dates or choosing to go remote in some capacity due to COVID-19, more and more parents now have to juggle working and taking care of their children. 

It’s difficult for working parents to manage personal and professional responsibilities at the same time—especially for hourly workers with sometimes unpredictable schedules. That’s where you, as the manager or business owner, come in. 

Taking the time to lay out a plan for your employees with kids will not only make the lives of your team members easier, but could also help prevent future lawsuits. Plus, prioritizing the personal lives of your team (and their children!) will strengthen your bond with them and increase chances of employee retention

Here are a few things to consider, as well as some creative tactics for supporting working parents. 

Know what’s going on in your state

The first step to laying out a solid accommodation plan is knowing if you need to at all. Most states have at least some form of remote learning in place. Currently, six locations have a state-ordered closures or opening delays in effect, including: 

  • Arkansas
  • West Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island 
  • District of Columbia

Check out this update, interactive guide from Education Week to stay on top of when schools in your area are opening and what remote learning looks like for your employees’ children. 

Know the new laws 

Before creating your plan for working parents, know what’s required of you under the new legislation stipulated in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Under the act, covered employers must provide 12 weeks of partially paid leave to workers whose children are at home due to daycare or school closures because of COVID-19. There are also state and local laws in some areas that cover more employers and require more paid time off due to the pandemic. 

“Other state and local jurisdictions have passed their own COVID-19-specific leave laws that may apply to employers not covered by the FFCRA, or mandated additional leave on top of FFCRA leave,” labor and employment attorney Katie Erno told SHRM. “The FFCRA allows this leave to be taken intermittently, so employers and employees can agree to a flexible schedule.”

Stay up to date with your local laws and regulations behind time off for your employees and make sure you’re adhering to them, or you could potentially have a lawsuit on your hands. 

Ask first, then plan 

You may think you’ve created the perfect solution for your employees, but you won’t actually know until you’ve asked them directly. It’s best to go straight to the source. Talk to your team and ask what it really is that they need.

Even better, crowdsource the ideas from your team as a whole and build a space for your team members to support each other. According to an article from Inc, digital freight company Transfix created a chat channel specifically for the working parents in the business to share ideas, resources, and needs for parents taking on their new hybrid lifestyles.  

Setting up a group in Homebase messaging is an easy way to do this. Your team can share messages, advice, and links to helpful tools right in their Homebase app, for free. 

Set a predictable schedule, be flexible

In order for your employees to plan for their own childcare strategy while working, they need to have a solid, steady work schedule in place. Which means that now is the perfect time to set up that predictive scheduling plan you’ve been meaning to get around to starting. 

Predictive scheduling is simply the practice of setting your work schedule in advance. This way your staff can better plan things such as hiring a sitter or organizing a family member to watch their children during their shifts. 

Homebase offers an easy way to set your predictive schedule building in motion. Our free scheduling app lets you build work schedules in minutes and immediately share them with your team. You can even copy the same schedule from week to week so you can maintain a level of steady shifts, adding more stability to your employees’ lives. 

Once you’ve got your schedule in place, be more flexible during this time when it comes to shift swapping. Employees without children might be willing to trade shifts with coworkers who have to deal with child-related issues last minute. Allowing this to happen when possible is important for creating a workplace that works for everyone. 

Consider child care benefits

Although child care facilities across the nation are on shaky ground when it comes to staying open, some parents in areas where they are open may not have other options. However, daycare prices are astronomical these days. The average monthly cost is over $1,000 in most areas—check out your state’s average cost with this helpful guide

Still, offering childcare benefits to your team doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think. Some businesses offer subsidized child care to their employees, or negotiate discounts with local daycare providers. 

Consider working with home daycare owners in your city. Since they aren’t larger centers, they typically charge 30% to 40% less. This means you may be able to subsidize your team’s child care charges and make it affordable. 

On top of subsidies, there are also things you can do when an employee’s child care solution falls through. Many businesses offer backup care for these emergency situations for a set number of days out of the year. 

Here are a few backup care companies that work with businesses to help their employees: 

You can also offer Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to help employees cut costs. Parents can spend 30% less of their own money on average to pay for daycare and other qualified expenses. 

There’s more in it for you than making your employees’ lives easier. Cutting your team’s child care costs could also earn you a tax break. You can often deduct how much you subsidize for each employee.

Share helpful resources 

Even when your team is at home taking on remote learning, they need as much help as they can get. Support them even when they’re off the clock by sharing helpful tools and resources—maybe in your new parent chat channel! 

Here are a few great tools to kick off your resource contribution: 

  • Scholastic: Scholastic’s Learn at Home hub offers active learning journeys to help reinforce education for students from ages pre-K to 9th grade who can’t attend school. 
  • Khan Academy: Parents can download sample schedules, free online courses, and test prep materials. Students can even view livestreams with teachers.
  • National Education Association: The teachers union provides advice to parents teaching at home. 
  • Smithsonian virtual field trips: Kids may not be able to go on real field trips yet, but virtual tours for many of the Smithsonian museums are available online. 
  • Barbara Bush Foundation: The Barbara Bush Foundation has an Online Literacy Toolkit for parents teaching children at home, including digital classrooms, reading programs, and more. 

You can also check out our article on free, virtual resources for even more great tools to share. 

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The bottom line when it comes to supporting your working parent employees is that flexibility, communication, and understanding are crucial. Showing your team you’re on their side creates a bonded, trusting work environment. And as with any other employee appreciation tactics, building that trust will decrease turnover and increase workplace happiness.