How to support staff through the school holidays
The school holidays – particularly those during the summer months – cause a variety of problems. The main one for employers is probably competing annual leave requests. If you employ a number of parents it’s likely that many will want the same weeks off. On the flip side, many working parents find that they struggle with childcare during the school holidays; this could be due to the associated costs or because their usual childminder is simply unavailable.
Quietly in the corner
So let’s suppose that one of your employees has approached you and asked if they can bring their child into work every Friday during the school holidays – they simply don’t have anyone else they can rely on for those days. They’ve suggested that their little one – who they describe as being “no bother at all, you won’t even notice them” – will sit quietly doing something while they carry out their duties for you. You can see that their request is genuine, but should you agree to it?
Not a free crèche
In this situation it’s difficult not to have sympathy for a working parent – reliable childcare is difficult to come by. Furthermore, rather than dropping you in it at the last second – which many employees wouldn’t hesitate to do – this individual has put you fully in the picture. That said, there are two problems if you agree.
The first is that if you say “yes” to this employee, you could receive similar requests from others – you’re running a business not a free crèche. However, there is a further problem and that is your potential liability.
If this employee’s child was to injure themselves on your premises, your employers’ liability insurance provider isn’t going to be too happy if they discover that you had agreed to act as a temporary childminding facility. This will undoubtedly come out as during their investigation they’ll demand to know what the child was doing there in the first place.
If the child is injured, you can’t pass the liability buck to the parent – under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 you alone are responsible for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all non-employees who enter your premises.
What should you do?
Whilst you may agree to a child remaining on your premises for a few hours in an emergency situation, e.g. where a childminder is taken ill, you should refuse requests for an ongoing arrangement, even if it will help a parent out in the school holidays.
If the employee’s job allows for it, one option could be a temporary alteration in hours during the school holidays, e.g. they work longer hours Monday through to Thursday and then take Fridays off. Do make it clear that this is not an ongoing arrangement, or a permanent change to their working hours, and it can be revoked at any time you choose. We have a great template on our HR toolkit that covers situations just like this as well as providing another 1000+ documents / templates to help you.
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 above template and and the 1000+ documents within the portal, can support your business.