While the details of the upcoming nationwide teachers strike on Wednesday 29 May are not yet clear, many working parents will already be wondering how to accommodate children not able to attend school on that day?
New Zealand has over 800,000 primary and secondary school students, which means it is likely to be a very disruptive day for families and businesses around the country.
For some working parents, it will be relatively easy day to manage. However, for other working parents, particularly those in customer-facing industries or industries with higher health and safety risks, the day may prove more challenging to negotiate with children in tow.
Here are three tips for workplaces, and three tips for parents to help make the day a little easier for everyone.
Tips for workplaces:
1. Be as flexible as you can for working parents on the day
The strike day provides a great opportunity to activate your organisation’s flexible work policy, or to test the idea of flexible working within your organisation. In this instance, flexible working could be to allow employees to work from home, work different hours, or take children to work (if appropriate, depending on the workplace). For the benefits of flexible working, toolkits and information, check out: https://www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies/productive-workplaces/flexible-work/
2. See the ‘Wellbeing’ opportunity
If bringing children to work is an option for your workplace, from a workplace wellbeing perspective, the strike day provides a real opportunity to strengthen social connection at work. It’s a chance for colleagues to meet an employee’s family and learn more about them, for working parents to connect, and for children to see what their mum, dad or caregiver does each day.
Children at work are also a pool of potential future talent – so make the most of the opportunity to showcase your industry or business, and inspire the children to want to consider your industry when they get older. Create an invitation the parent can take home, that can be a nice touch. On the day, give out a simple ‘welcome pack’ with activities and organise factory tours, challenges, a shared lunch and presentations. Make them feel welcome at your workplace and make a day of it.
3. Where possible, do what you can
Whatever you can do to make life a little easier for working parents on the strike day will be greatly appreciated. Supporting your employees and showing you understand, will help drive employee loyalty and engagement.
Tips for parents
1. Rally the community
Reach out to your community and ask the local school, family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours, parents, or neighbourhood groups how they might be able to assist you on the day. Museums, libraries and before and after school care groups often extend hours or create programmes on strike days to accommodate school children.
2. Seek support from work
Talk to your manager about flexible working on that day or bring your children to work with you, if you can. Seek out your workplace’s flexible working policy and ask your human resources specialist if you’re not sure.
Most parents are used to taking a truck full of activities with them to keep kids entertained wherever they go, so if you do take your child to work this will be a great day to bring that truck load of stuff with you to work.
3. Be kind to yourself
Working parents normally have enough on their plates, and the strike day is likely to be an additional stress for many. On this day, do whatever you can to make the day easier for yourself. If it means grabbing takeaways instead of home cooked dinner, leaving home chores for another day or simply accepting that 29 May will be an extraordinary day – then it’s about the best anyone can do in an unprecedented situation.
Footnote – Student count from: https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/home