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How employers can help parent employees

A new report suggests Utahns will most likely receive pay raises next year. Utah’s Employer Council is projecting close to a 2.5% pay hike for Utah employees in 2021. (PHOTO: File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents who are doing online learning for their children may find themselves again once again juggling school, home and work right now. The good news is, experts say employers can help.

The key is to maintain compliance, be creative, and communicate, says the Utah President of the Employers Council, Ryan D. Nelson.

With compliance, there are state and federal laws to follow. Those include new laws under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and emergency sick leave.

“Employers need to be aware of those laws and apply them when appropriate to help employees,” said Nelson.

Then there are the company’s policies and procedures.

“With internal policies, companies can create paid leave or flexible work arrangement or a flexible schedule,” he said.

Nelson says the employer and employee should communicate often as circumstances change. Talk about responsibilities, deadlines, and objectives based on the business’ needs.

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“What’s interesting though, is a lot of employees hesitate or are concerned about having that conversation.  Employers could do a lot of good by helping their employees feel comfortable in sharing those concerns, with the goal being to enable employees to perform their job, but also allows the employee to be a mom or a dad,” he said.

And finally, Nelson says flexibility, where job functions allow, is important. The way to do that he says is to identify the essential functions of the work you’re doing and see if they could be done in different ways or at different times. Using sick time or personal hours in different ways works too.

Nelson says his family, for example, is in the Davis School District, which will not have children in school every day. So on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he will be using more of his day-time hours to help his children in their schooling, and use morning and evening hours for work. 

In the case of part-time or lower-skilled work though, Nelson is afraid some employers might just replace the “complicated” employee with a family.

“In many ways that is short-sighted, and often illegal. It recognizes the disadvantage that employees have when they look at the employment relationship. A wise employer and an employer of choice will not seek to abuse that authority to hire and fire,” said Nelson.

He said a holistic view of the employee’s needs will make that employee more loyal, less stressed, and a better worker. And it will pay off for the company.