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We're all going on a summer holiday!

If my employee works from home, can I insist they arrange childcare?

Employees must be available to work during their hours and not distracted by childcare. If employees cannot properly carry out their duties if they are looking after children, employers can require that employees working from home arrange childcare. 

In practice, it may depend on several factors, including the nature of the business, the employee’s role, and the age of the children. Whilst older children can be self-sufficient, younger children normally need more looking after whilst their parents work.

If employees can work alternative hours, for example, in the evenings when children are in bed, you could agree on a slight change in working arrangements to accommodate childcare needs, if this meets your business needs.  

If children impact a person’s ability to carry out their role, then childcare should be arranged. The difficulty for employers is when their employee has a difference of opinion to them regarding the need for childcare.

As an employer, can I ask staff what arrangements they have?

In short, yes, but you will need to consider these factors carefully:

· Ask all staff

· Don’t direct the question only to female employees

· Don’t ask specific sections of your workforce

· Be consistent

The risk in asking specific individuals or departments is that you could end up on the wrong side of a discrimination claim; all conversations with employees must be carefully managed.

What if an employee arranges childcare for the summer holidays but is different from their normal work hours?

Out-of-school clubs and summer camps at school can have shorter hours than a normal working day. If practically possible, you might want to look at allowing a change to the working pattern throughout the school summer holidays.

It’s always best to try and find a workable solution with your employees and have those open and honest conversations. However, we know that sometimes reaching an agreement that suits everyone is not always possible, and sometimes employees should use family-friendly leave options, such as parental leave.

What do I do if my employee struggles to arrange childcare and we can’t meet a mutual agreement on changing the working arrangement?

There are several different types of leave a parent can use for childcare issues:

1. Annual Leave

2. Parental Leave

3. Time off for Dependants

Parental leave is available to all parents with at least one year’s service with a child under 18. It can be taken in one-week blocks, for up to four weeks per year, and 18 weeks in total per child, before the child’s 18th birthday. It is unpaid but allows for extended leave to be taken to care for children. For a disabled child, the four-week limit per year does not apply.

If your child’s normal childcare arrangements fall through or become unwell, the employee may be entitled to time off to care for dependants. It’s unpaid and is intended to be short-term leave to take urgent action in the circumstances, meaning to find alternative care.

We at Sapphire HR believe the best course of action is to have open discussions with your employees to find an approach that works best for all parties.

If you do agree to temporary changes to working hours, ensure that you provide your employees with a letter stipulating any changes and the dates that it is effective.

As employers you need to be mindful of the potential for indirect discrimination claims, particularly if an employee feels they have no alternative but to resign considering childcare issues.

As the world of working has changed dramatically during the past 2 years, we would always advise to take advice if you are unsure on how to move forward with any issues.

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