By Isaac Chan

As lockdown restrictions ease across the country, we’re now seeing schools and childcare facilities reopen. And while it’s true that most employees with young families will no longer need to educate or care for their children from home, there may be other circumstances which arise that may impact some employees and their working commitments.

Employers have an obligation to consider parents and their caring responsibilities. That’s why it’s really important that managers work with their staff should they request support during this challenging time.

Everyone’s situation is different; an employee might be required to pick-up their children from school because it’s not safe for their elderly parents to do so anymore or an employee may not have access to a carer to look after their children when they need to be at work. These are all valid reasons and employers need to be considerate of each individual.

In this article, we point out your obligations as an employer and some simple ways you can support employees with young families.

Protections for caring responsibilities

It’s important to remember when discussing caring responsibilities with an employee, that they’re protected under the Fair Work Act 2009 – this means that as an employer if you take any adverse action against an employee such as issuing a warning, reducing their hours or termination, you can be at risk of an employee making a General Protections claim. An employee can also make a discrimination claim through the Australian Human Rights Commission or the relevant State Act.

Keep communication lines open

Having regular catchups between you and your employee is the best way to communicate. Whether you speak on the phone, via Zoom or in person, take some time to understand their caring responsibilities and work together to create a plan that is mutually beneficial.

Tip: it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes plans don’t always work out. To protect both the employee and employer, we recommend that the agreed plan commences as a trial. This will give both parties the opportunity to assess if the plan is working and make any necessary adjustments.

Flexible working arrangements

Should there be an ongoing requirement for flexibility due to caring responsibilities, an employee and employer can enter into a flexible working arrangement. This can be requested by an employee and agreed between the employee and employer which meets both parties’ needs. This could be an adjustment from full time to part-time hours or even permitting an employee to work from home for some or all of the working week

If you have a query about the information in this article, get in touch with us. Our Telephone Advisory Service is staffed by a team of highly-qualified, skilled and experienced HR and legal professionals. They’re also a bunch of incredibly nice people.

Isaac Chan is an experienced workplace relations consultant at FCB Group and HR Assured Australia. Isaac regularly handles complex workplace issues for all kinds of businesses, from start-ups to enterprise-level.