As cities and states assess whether they can safely welcome students back into the classroom, employers must simultaneously assess what to do about the array of unknowns for their parent-employees.

What if my child gets sick while at school and I must watch over them while they quarantine? What if my child’s school is closed and I cannot afford a private daycare to watch over them while I work?

These questions may be soaring through the minds of parents who anxiously await returning to work and hear if their child will be returning to school. Parents may feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped with the task of educating their children while continuing to go to work. The valid list of concerns from working parents is simultaneously being contemplated by their employers, who must address these potential scenarios for their employees.

FFCRA Guidelines for School Closure

Implemented on April 1st, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act accounts for scenarios such as school closures. The FFCRA includes employees caring for a child experiencing school closure or childcare closure due to COVID-19 as a valid reason for employers to allow a two-week paid sick leave. Although schools’ openings and closures as well as individual quarantines are subject to change and cause continuous disruptions to standard work schedules. Therefore, the employers have now been assigned the homework of creating a comprehensive plan for their parent-employees. 

Proactive Planning

Proactive planning by employers, parents and community members in the face of uncertainty is crucial. Many cities including New Orleans have offered multiple schooling options such as remote schooling or in-person instructions only specific days of the week which are subject to fluctuate as the virus does. Therefore, employers too must address the variety of situations their employees may face. 

  • Proactive Communication: Employers may have implemented the FFCRA regulations in April or addressed school closure in the Spring, although comprehensive planning and communication with employees going into an uncertain fall is important. As school districts update their plans for reopening employers should engage with parent employees to understand their needs come the fall.  
  • Expansion of remote work: If working from home is still adequate for employees, then employers should encourage they stay where they are. Facilitating long-term remote work may be possible through decreasing office spaces and real-estate expenses. 
  • Flexible work hours: Working parents may need to adjust work hours depending on hours they need to provide instruction for their students. Allowing parents to expand their scheduling hours as well as employers paying employees based on segmented work throughout the day. 
  • Leave Policy: Employees have until December 31st 2020 to take their FFCRA two-week leave, and with potential reasons for quarantining as students go to school, employers should have an adequate process to facilitate and grant requests for leave. 
  • Childcare Benefits: Employers who require in-person work may consider expanding childcare benefits or providing onsite childcare for employees. 
  • Labor Turnover: Employers should be aware of the potential labor turnover and the potential loss of employees. In April 6% of parent employees were expected to take leave from their jobs, although it has increased to 27%.  
  • Parental Planning: Parents are also engaging in planning for the upcoming year. In every school district parent are looking at creative ways to balance back-to-work and back-to-school plans. Some Parents are developing learning pods with other students in their grade and neighborhood, others are hiring tutors to supplement virtual learning, still others are using online childcare services to assist with caring for children who may not be school age.   Some schools are also offering onsite childcare. Finally, many more parents are taking the plunge into home schooling since instruction for their district may be virtual anyway.  

Decisions Based on Familial Responsibility

Parents make up about a third of the workforce, a percentage which plays a crucial role in the economy and must be accounted for by their employers. Although there are growing concerns regarding the way employers will respond to these challenges for parent-employees and potential for discrimination based on familial responsibilities, which could disproportionately fall on women. Further reasons why it is crucial for employees to proactively plan multiple strategies and flexible options for their employees come the fall.