COVID-19 Support

COVID-19: How Employers Can Support
Working Parents

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, job loss, school closures, and unavailability of child care mean that families need extra support. Numerous organizations including the CDC, The American Chamber of Commerce, UNICEF, and others have recommended key steps employers can take that will prepare businesses for disruption, while also giving working parents the time and support they need to care for their children. These Family-Friendly Workplace policies and other good workplace practices can enable workers to protect and care for themselves and their children and enhance workers’ productivity and sense of security.

These six key steps are recommended to employers to protect employees, support parents and mitigate the effects on both businesses and families during the COVID-19 pandemic including, subject to any input from your legal advisor, the following:

 

  1. Assess Your Policies: Begin by assessing whether current workplace policies provide sufficient support to workers and their families.

  2. Allow Flex-time: Grant flexible work arrangements wherever possible. This will not only allow for social distancing, but because the needs of working parents can vary greatly, different types of flexible work arrangements support parents to care for their children and families. Develop other flexible policies for scheduling and telework if needed.

  3. Paid & Sick Leave: Examine policies for leave. The CDC recommends that leave policies should be “flexible and non-punitive and allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers. Leave policies should also account for employees who need to stay home with their children if there are school or childcare closures, or to care for sick family members.” Make sure that employees are aware of these policies.
    In April 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division issued the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which expired on December 31, 2020. However, employers can take FFCRA Tax Credits Through March 31, 2021. Voluntarily providing FFCRA paid leave may be a good option for employers seeking to help employees through difficult circumstances caused by COVID-19, as the pandemic shows no signs of subsiding yet. 
    In California, if you are unable to work because you are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, you can file for a CA Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim.  PFL now provides up to eight weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. For the purposes of PFL coverage, a family member is defined as seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. NOTE:  PFL benefits are not available to parents who need to stay home to care for a child whose school has closed due to COVID-19.

  4. Support Child Care Needs: If flexible working arrangements are not possible, consider supporting the child care needs of working parents. This includes offering child care referrals, assistance with securing childcare, subsidies for tuition, or by offering your own option in child care for your employees that can be a safe and appropriate alternative in the context of COVID-19. 

  5. Mental Health Support: In a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans have reported feeling anxious at least a few days per week since the onset of the pandemic. Depression can be a very serious illness and it has become the leading cause of disability in the workplace. Depression alone costs the American economy over $210 billion per year, according to the Center for Workplace Mental HealthOne easy way to support employees coping with stress is by encouraging employees to utilize their EAP as part of your emergency response plan to coronavirus. If your business does not have access to an EAP plan, now may be the perfect time to invest in one.

  6. Plan & Communicate: Share information with employees on steps they can take to protect themselves at work and at home. Prepare business continuity plans for significant absenteeism. Identify essential employees and business functions. Provide information about available employee assistance services. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Provide workers with guidance on how to seek medical support. Share your response plans with employees and clearly communicate expectations. 

Please also see this comprehensive resource: California’s Roadmap to Modify the Stay-at-Home Order: Family Friendly Practices for Employers

COVID-19 & Child Care

The following may affect many families in relations to child care.

  • As of November 2020 over 13% of child care providers in SLO County remain closed, or substantially limited in the services they can provide. Many parents face the fact that their child care provider is no longer available and are forced to seek a new provider.

  • Amongst those programs that are currently open, many have made significant reductions to their enrollment to maintain smaller group sizes critical to reducing the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19. Licensing and public health guidelines recommend children be cared for in small group cohorts and to limit the number of children in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Parents may find that their child care provider is open, but no longer able to accept their child as slots have filled up quickly.

  • Many parents are choosing not to send their children back to child care due to fears for the health of their children and/or extended family. Additionally, if the family has been in financial distress due to COVID-19, they may no longer be able to afford their previous provider. 

  • Many parents of school-age children are now facing additional challenges regarding supporting/facilitating distance education and new costs for full-time child care and tutoring.  These demands are putting additional strain on child care providers to expand services.