COVID-19 School Decisions Impacting Working Parents – What Employers Can Do

Many employees are going to have to deal with the challenges of children not being able to go to school in the fall or deciding not to allow them back into the school. Either way, this creates unprecedented challenges for employers.

This is certainly new territory for managers and employees prior to 2020 but is becoming part of our new reality. It is important to acknowledge the challenges of their situation to determine a realistic plan, however, you will also want to alleviate the worry and stress that employees may be feeling.

The video below goes into detail about what employers can do right now regarding virtual learning with their employees who have children. Watch it here.

Virtual Learning Parents in the Workplace


Below we have provided some suggestions for addressing these conversations as well as suggestions for managing these employees during this time.

Assume Positive Intent – It is important to enter into these conversations with employees with positive intent. Address the employee’s decision to have their children stay home to attend virtual school, and acknowledge that this may impact their daily work routines. Walking into the conversation with positivity and address that the company is willing to remain flexible for their needs. Approaching the conversation this way can reduce and worry or tension the employee may feel.

Flexible Schedule – If possible, allow employees to work a more flexible schedule. Consider what, if any, work can be performed on off-hours or during weekends. Additionally, it may be worth considering that employees may have longer days but realistically will work in “bursts” a few hours at a time. Additionally, it may be worth amending an employee’s breaks and lunches to align with their kids’ school schedule. If it is relevant and applicable, remind employees that as long as they continue to perform work and meet expectations, their working hours will be of little consideration. Working parents with children

Communication Expectations – Identify the frequency of communication that managers will require from these employees, and explicitly request the type of communication that will be expected. For example, determine whether it will be necessary for employees to inform their managers when they are attending to their children during the day. 

Eliminate the Non-Essential – We recommend clearing an employee’s calendar of any non-essential meetings to allow additional time in their day for what is essential with their limited time. Additionally, consider what items can be postponed or reassigned within reason. 

Determine and Utilize “Plan B” – Your employees and their managers should determine an action plan for when the employee is unable to attend a meeting, or perform a function. Consider whether an employee “buddy system” would be worth implementing for employees to cover each other when needed. We recommend creating these plans with employees as they will likely know the limitations they may run into. 

Amend Expectations, but Only as Needed and Appropriate – In some cases it makes sense to alter expectations for employees (expectations around tardiness, for example). It may not be worth management’s time to discipline employees for not meeting expectations that are normally enforced if there is little impact to the employee’s ability to fully perform the functions of their job. Of course, employees must still be able to successfully perform the essential functions of their positions, so this consideration should be approached carefully as to not inadvertently impose that there will be no expectations for employees. 

Do Not Reprimand Employees for Children Interruptions – It is important that managers and employees understand that when employees are at home with their kids, there may be times when work is interrupted. It is important to communicate with employees ahead of time that these interruptions will not result in disciplinary action. Without this type of communicated statements, employees may spend valuable time and energy worrying about conducting work sans interruption to avoid reprimand. 

Provide Resources – If your company offers any resources to assist employees, now would be a good time to remind them. For example, some companies offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or mentorship program. Further, it may be worth identifying similarly situated employees who will also be working at home with their kids to offer additional support and knowledge-sharing.

Here is more information regarding school policies from the CDC.

Have questions or need guidance regarding how to accommodate your employees? Contact our HR Guides and we will happy to help!

Don’t forget to watch this video, it may answer many of the questions you have regarding virtual learning and how you can accommodate your employees.

Virtual Learning Parents in the Workplace