How to Support Employees and Students with Children
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
7 steps that your school can take to provide adequate support for working parents and their families.
As some parts of the world stay in lockdown during Covid-19 and others can already start getting back to normal, it’s essential for all organisations to support their employees and their families.
International universities and business schools bear this responsibility too, as professors and other staff members are staying home, working remotely, and drastically changing their teaching practices. Parents who are currently enrolled in MBA, Executive MBA, or post-experience Master’s programmes may also need additional support from business and graduate schools.
In view of the current situation in many countries around the globe, the American Federation of Teachers highlights that educational institutions should have “plans in place for employees with children whose regular school or daycare situation is interrupted by closures.”
A recent publication by UNICEF recommends seven steps that organisations should take to provide adequate support for working parents and their families.
#1. Identify current needs
What are your existing work policies when it comes to employees and their families? Here is what UNICEF recommends when assessing the current needs of working parents: “Specific focus should be placed on vulnerable groups, such as temporary, informal, migrant, pregnant or nursing workers, workers with disabilities and those who lack access to benefits like paid sick leave.”
#2. Provide flexible work arrangements
Flexible work arrangements can differ depending on the type of organisation, industry, and the roles of employees. Many international universities have already fully transitioned to remote work which not only enables continuous learning with little disruption, but also gives teaching staff more freedom to adapt to the unusual circumstances. Other support points include compressing the work week or ensuring protected long-term leave for employees.
#3. Help with quality childcare options
The closures of schools and childcare facilities make it more challenging for parents to cope with the work week and the home schooling of their children. Consider how your university can assist employees, for example through childcare referral systems (in places where childcare remains available and safe), subsidies, and flexible work arrangements, as recommended by UNICEF.
#4. Promote good hygiene
Depending on the nature of their work, some employees do not have the option to work remotely and still have to perform their duties on site. In these cases, your institution needs to adhere to all necessary standards for maintaining strict hygiene in the workplace every day. In addition, it’s always a good idea to communicate prevention measures to the entire team, regardless of their work station – maintaining good hygiene, social distancing recommendations, and other best practices.
#5. Communicate medical support options
As we are all getting accustomed to this new situation, employers should be able to guide their workers to the appropriate healthcare services when they need them. This can include simply communicating the contact information of local hospitals and health authorities.
#6. Provide emotional support
Next to medical guidance, employees have the right to receive appropriate emotional support for themselves and their families. While parents are trying to make sense of their new working conditions and lifestyle, they might also need assistance in helping their children cope with confusion or anxiety. UNICEF has compiled helpful resources that parents can use “to encourage talk, play, and other forms of stimulation that children need from caregivers.”
#7. Reduce financial burdens
As economic recession is set to follow on from the Covid-19 outbreak, educational institutions and other organisations should have short- and long-term strategies at the ready to support employees and their families. According to UNICEF, there are several ways to reduce the potential financial burdens of working parents: “Support measures can include employment protection, paid sick leave, and economic transfers like child benefits and subsidies for health expenditures.”
Next to taking care of all full-time or part-time employees, it is essential to acknowledge the needs of current or prospective university students who have children. Consider how these UNICEF-approved steps can be applied to the specific circumstances of class participants, applicants, and even alumni. Clear and timely communication is key at the moment and your institution should be able to provide it to different stakeholders.