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Dear ReWorker,

I have employees in three different school districts, and each district has different rules for attendance. Because of COVID-19, some of my employees have kids doing 100% remote learning, some are doing hybrid learning and the last school district lets employees choose. We have 200 employees, so we're subject to the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. Do I have to let everyone take paid time off? Should I have to let parents work from home? We've re-opened and we're much more productive in-person, so I’m not sure how to best support parents without jeopardizing our business.

Sincerely,

Navigating the New Normal

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Dear Navigating,

Who knew that school schedules would play such a key role in running businesses? It turns out we rely on them for childcare as well as education.

You’re right that the Family First Coronavirus Response Act does provide employees the opportunity to take paid time off when childcare isn’t available. There is a limit of 12 weeks of this leave. It went into effect in April, and many employees took advantage of FFCRA time in the spring. But, if they haven’t yet, now may be the time they opt to use it.

It’s no surprise that parents make up a significant portion of your workforce—nationwide, 40% of households have children under 18. And while it’s scary to consider a situation in which all of your employees with children take this leave, it’s crucial that you understand this: they are facing unprecedented challenges during the pandemic and struggling to balance parenting with work productivity. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but harder on them. These employees have been there for you and your business. Now, you have to be there for them. If you continue to require them to work in-person, you give them no choice but to formally take the FFCRA time off. 

In other words, take a deep breath, and let’s find a solution.

First, the rules:

1. The parents in the school district with 100% remote learning are covered by FFCRA.

2. The parents in the hybrid learning school district can use leave but only on the days that their children are not in school

3. The parents who have a choice in learning style aren’t eligible for FFCRA leave.

Second, the solutions:

Allow Flexible Telecommuting Options

Allow the employees that need to work remotely to telecommute while other employees come into the office if your business depends on in-person work. Depending on the age and independence of the children, some parents may prefer this option because it’ll resolve their childcare issue. In other words, they won’t need to take a full leave. A parent of say, a nine year old, will need to be home to supervise the child and set up their computer for learning, but can still work productively while school is in session. 

Some parents may also be interested in working alternating hours to split childcare duties with their partners. Try to come up with ways to make this work and lean towards saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’

Ask Employees for Solutions

Chances are that your employees want to continue to be productive. Ask them what you can do to make work work for them. You may get some creative ideas.

Last but not least, make sure to follow all safety protocols put forth by the CDC and your state health department. The last thing you need is an outbreak in your reopened office. Play your part in keeping your employees healthy, both physically and emotionally. And remember to work with your employees, especially the parents, to find solutions that work for everyone.

Sincerely,

Your ReWorker

Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady

For more advice from our ReWorker, check out her column here.