Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to remind us how amazingly resilient we are as human beings. In less than a fortnight, millions of Americans have taken their upended lives and are somehow, someway, making it work. But getting to work still poses a huge problem for parents of young children, particularly for those with jobs that can’t be done remotely.
Many employers are now considering temporarily adding an office daycare service to their benefit offerings. And as much as Sentinel wants never to discourage employers from working creatively to meet the needs of employees, as well as their own, we can’t stress enough how problematic this particular solution is.
First, childcare centers and daycares require proper licensing from the state. Unless you already have or can quickly obtain the proper licensure, now is not the time to do so. Operating without one could well lead to stiff fines and other penalties that your business simply can’t afford right now.
If you can’t offer supervised care, surely your employees can still bring their children to the office and keep an eye on them while they work, right? Unfortunately, no. Bringing children to work, even informally, could be viewed by state regulators as operating an unlicensed daycare. Not to mention the fact that you probably don’t have, and can no longer get, the very specific kind of insurance policy needed to have children on site at your place of business.
Let’s put fear of getting caught and the potential for stiff penalties aside and consider, for a moment, the real risks to everything you hold dear–your employees, your stakeholders, your company—by bringing more people together in close quarters at a time when you should be encouraging the exact opposite.
Sentinel’s best advice right now is this: protect the health and safety of your employees any way that you can. Allow those with jobs than can be done remotely to work from home now. Invest in digital solutions with the goal of transitioning as many of your employees to remote work as possible in the days ahead. And for jobs that must be done on site, create as much social distancing around their work space as possible, provide sanitation guidance and supplies, and be prepared to step up support systems and expand leave policies to encourage sick employees and those with vulnerable family members to stay at home.
And that’s just to start. As remote work looks to be the reality for many of us for a while, consider the subtle messages you are sending your team. Lead by example. Allow for flexibility, both in terms of work hours and by softening other office protocols. Even a quick message letting your employees know that managers will not mind if children are sitting on laps or making noise in the background during phone calls and video conferences could go a long way toward making your employees feel comfortable.
This is an overwhelming time for all of us, whether we own a business, manage people, are salaried or work hourly. This pandemic presents challenges to everyone at every stage and all walks of life. It’s easy to lose sight of the thing that is most important in all this: people. Businesses can and will recover. How well your business responds and prospers in a post-coronavirus world may well come down to how well your people—the team that powers your business today—come through the crisis in the months ahead.
Lastly, be aware of new FMLA provisions for businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Under the federal government’s new legislation, which has been signed by President Trump and is now in effect, employers are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 in a myriad of ways, including by becoming sick themselves, being exposed to someone with the virus, or by needing to care for minor children in the event of school and daycare closures.
To read more about the new federal legislation for small business, visit our health benefit partner, One Digital, here.