Mother navigating work and school

Six Ways to Help Parent Employees Navigate Work and School

Back to school is here – and one thing is clear, there isn’t a common approach to the school year. With some schools starting virtually, others going back in person, and still others delaying the schedule and decision, parents have become a primary focus in the workplace as they navigate the uncertain realities. 

Many parents are also feeling the pressure and looking for different solutions than what they did in the spring at the beginning of the pandemic. First Person Advisors is hearing, “I just can’t go back to e-learning and working remotely long term.” Also, many have already exhausted the 12-weeks of emergency leave and no longer have that option.

First, there are no clear answers, but an interactive and flexible approach is needed. Think of it like the ADA interactive process – working through each unique situation on a case-by-case, individual basis. To get you started, here are six ways to help parent employees navigate work and school.

Remote Employees

For employees who have a job where it’s possible to work remotely, allow them the flexibility to do so or continue to do so.

  1. You may have employees who were successfully able to work remotely before while caring for children who are now saying they just can’t do it going forward. Remember they can now seek Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave. All leave for childcare purposes is at the 2/3 pay rate.
  2. If possible based on business needs, be flexible with schedules around requests such as amended schedules so parents can drop off and pick up children at school, as many are being asked to limit the number of kids on school buses.


I sat down with Tracy Forner of WISH-TV to share a few tips for HR professionals handling parent employees during the back-to-school season.


On-Site Employees

For employees who need to be onsite, it’s even more challenging.

  1. Work together to try to find a flexible solution such as an alternate work schedule. The Department of Labor (DOL) encourages maximum flexibility and collaboration, and allows for intermittent expanded family and medical leave for childcare purposes. This would extend their leave since they wouldn’t be using it continuously.
  2. If you are an employer with the expanded leave provisions, employees could take leave if they are available and still have time available.
  3. They can take any other leave you have available (e.g., vacation, paid time off) or unpaid personal leave if you are able and willing to accommodate it for some time. Be sure to check benefits eligibility requirements when considering unpaid leave.
  4. The possibility for creative options such as shared childcare resources, teachers, parent support groups, etc. are endless, but be aware of cost, logistics and liability issues.


Here, I spoke with Ray Cortopassi of FOX59!


Here’s a bonus option: Whether employees can work remotely or not, you could offer a voluntary furlough, so they can take leave to care for their children and collect unemployment benefits. As always, it’s critical to ensure that your business needs can support this. You should also make sure the employee is aware that their eligibility for unemployment benefits is ultimately determined by the state, not you as an employer.

The future of work will be a mix of schedules, locations and arrangements based on individual needs, which looks quite different from our typical 8-5 in a traditional office setting. What remains to be seen is how communication and collaboration will continue in the midst of a personalized workplace experience.

Although there aren’t easy answers, taking a flexible, empathetic and interactive approach will reinforce your culture and commitment to your employees during this challenging time.


CHECK OUT THE WEBINAR: I hosted a live session on August 27 to discuss strategies HR professionals can use to alleviate their working parents’ stress and improve their performance, specifically for the back-to-school season. Along with the slides, here’s the replay:

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