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Help employees cope with school holidays throughout the year

4th Aug 2016
Absence Management, Employee Engagement, Employment Law, Human Resources

With the majority of full-time employees entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave, coping with an average of 14 weeks of school holidays every year can be tough. The summer holiday, a block of nearly six weeks, can prove most challenging to both employer and employees. We share our expert HR tips for how to cope with the school holidays…

Annual Leave requests

The main issue for an employer is dealing with competing annual leave requests during school holiday periods, especially if your team has a high proportion of parents.  Employees may struggle with childcare whether this is due to cost or suitable availability. What may happen is that an employee asks if they can bring their child into work – whether as a one-off or on a regular day of the week due to a lack of available childcare. They will, of course, reassure you that their child is as good as gold, won’t be any trouble and in fact, you won’t even notice that he is there. They reassure you that he is of an age where he can sit and play on a tablet in the corner for a few hours whilst they get that urgent report completed.

Children in the workplace

Should you agree to it? You may have sympathy for the working parent and fully understand, maybe even through your own experience, that reliable childcare is hard to come by. You may appreciate that they have been up front with you about an issue and proposed a solution, as opposed to calling in “sick” or letting you down at the last minute. However, there are two problems if you agree:

1. Over-run – If you agree for this one employee, how many other requests will you receive and how many children will end up in the office. You are running a business, not a free holiday club.

2. The risk of liability – the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is very clear that you would be responsible for the child’s health, safety and welfare whilst on your premises. Just because the parent would be on site too, this does not remove your liability and it is unlikely that your liability insurance provider is going to be happy with you running an unofficial childminding facility.

Alternative options

Consider whether the employee can have a different working pattern as a temporary arrangement during the period of need e.g. working longer hours on certain days (compressed hours), working shorter hours if work demand allows it or working at a different location for example. You need to be clear that this is not a permanent change and that you retain the right to revoke it at any time to meet the needs of the business. See our blog on Flexible Working here >> 

You may consider that an emergency situation is acceptable, for example if a childminder is taken ill on the day and its a few hours whilst alternative arrangements are made.

What should you do?

If this issue affects you and you would like to talk it through, you can book a free consultation with one of our team and go from there. We also suggest you book a 30 minute, guided demo of our Toolkit to see how the templates and and the 1000+ documents within the portal, can support your business with issues exactly like this without having to employ an HR professional. For example, our Toolkit has template letters to agree on temporary arrangements and we can help you understand the legal implications. We would love to make a difference to your business and look forward to hearing from you on 01473 360160

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