The school holiday juggle

Posted by : Cara Armstrong on April 6, 2023 2:48 pm

As the first of the school holidays begin in 2023, Asset Recruitment’s Permanent Recruitment Specialist, Judith Bright looks at how employers can support working parents.

Life with children is a popular topic with comedians*, who use the material to garner raucous reactions from their audience and for good reason – most in the crowd can relate.

But for many working parents, juggling work commitments, home routines, school drop offs, and extra-curricular activities, is no laughing matter. Then there are the school holidays.

This month (April 2023), New Zealand children will attend school for just eight days – in some instances this has dropped to seven as schools schedule a Teacher Only Day on the Monday before Anzac Day. A recent article shared ways for parents to C.O.P.E with the holiday juggle (a model that encourages parents to construct, optimise, have perspective and evaluate), but balancing work life with childcare is a bigger topic, and one that’s important for employers to understand.

Juggling expectations

Flexible working initiatives have gained traction over recent years as employers and employees experiment with ways to deliver tasks while working from home and living through the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s now an expectation that employers will provide flexibility to staff, whether that be working from home, early finishes, allowing children in the office, or additional annual leave.

While school holidays certainly present a challenge to working parents with school-aged children, the demands on these parents are year round. So, what can employers do to help?

Front foot the conversation

“Make it clear from the beginning what your organisation’s policy is on flexible working arrangements,” says Judith Bright, Asset Recruitment’s Permanent Recruitment Specialist. “Is your organisation family friendly? For example, are children and families invited to work Christmas parties? Do leaders and managers understand the demands placed on working parents, and is this accommodated? Do they know when school holidays are and check in with their staff prior to the end of the school term to find out what they can do to help? Working parents are looking for employers who walk the talk. Your organisation’s HR policies, company culture framework, and open discussion on the demands of parents can show you do.”

Introduce initiatives

Incorporate a range of flexible working initiatives into your employee offering, and make a commitment to continually review and add to these. “There’s a baseline of flexible working initiatives most employers offer these days so organisations need to be creative in their thinking of ways to deliver to their staff that provides them with a point of difference,” says Judith. “That doesn’t have to rest on the shoulders of employers though. Establish a working group within your organisation that enables you to understand exactly what it is that working parents would deem to be of value. Perhaps it’s additional unpaid leave, flexibility with the use of sick leave, breakout spaces in the office where parents can bring children. Rather than second guess what would be helpful for parents, ask them, involve them, and work with them on making it a reality that works for both employer and employee.”

Accommodate availability

There are 12 weeks of the year that children are on holiday; that equates to three months, or a quarter of the year when working parents need to organise alternative childcare arrangements. Add to that, children are at school for just six hours a day, while full-time working parents must work eight hours a day. That’s a difference of 10 hours during the week when childcare in some such form (whether that be before or after school care, sports practices, or grandparents!) is required.

“This equation reiterates the ongoing juggle experienced by working parents,” explains Judith. “It’s not just during school holidays; it’s every day of the working week for many. Organisations need to accommodate that and they can by understanding when staff are available. For example, scheduling meetings between 2.00pm and 4.00pm will clash with school pick up, so aim for 9am to 11am instead.”

Don’t be afraid to hire working parents

While working parents may present a few extra HR considerations, employers shouldn’t shy away from hiring them. Their ability to multi-task, negotiate, think outside the square, and communicate with a variety of people, ensures they are valuable contributors to any workplace. Furthermore, there’s nothing like the 3pm school bell deadline to ensure work is completed on time!

At Asset Recruitment, we’re a team of working mums. If you’re looking to review your organisation’s flexible working policy, speak with our team today for strategies, support, and advice on positioning and recruiting excellence in your workplace.

*Watch English comedian, Michael McIntrye, as he illustrates how people without children have no idea what it’s like!

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