COVID-19 support | 'Lockdown leave' could save working parents

'Lockdown leave' could save working parents

Insurance firm Zurich has introduced fully paid 'lockdown leave' for parents facing childcare emergencies following the recent closure of schools.

Staff working in the firm’s UK arm are being offered two weeks paid leave to help balance work, childcare or other caring responsibilities.

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR, said that due to school closures, working parents will be “frantically trying to juggle their jobs and childcare responsibilities”.

He added: “We already offer flexibility for employees who want to change their working hours or structure some days differently. But for parents trying to balance work, childcare and home schooling, this may not be enough. 

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“We’re helping our employees get through this crisis by offering mums and dads paid time-off so they can look after their health and their family. 

“This is also available for anyone with other caring commitments.”

Zurich UK’s approach means that employees are able to take an additional ten days paid leave while primary and secondary schools are closed. These days can be taken individually or consecutively.

According to the firm, ‘lockdown leave’ will benefit more than one in five of Zurich’s 4,500 UK employees with children and it is likely that this will ease the pressure on working parents that many are currently facing.

How did staff react?

Collinson told HR Grapevine that staff have said that they “really value this additional support”.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve tried to do the right thing for our employees – whether that’s offering free COVID-19 antibody tests or access to advice and counselling."

“We hope this extra leave helps to ease the strain people are likely to be feeling at this tough time and ensure they can do their best to manage work, family and caring commitments,” Collinson added.

Should other employers follow suit?

With many parents struggling to juggle work commitments and childcare simultaneously in light of lockdown restrictions and school closures, it begs the question as to whether other employers should roll out benefits of a similar nature.

Yet, Collinson told HR Grapevine that every employer must do what they think is right for their business.

He added: “We think it’s critical to employ long-term thinking during these extraordinary times.

“Giving people extra support when they need it most will pay-off in the long-term through enhanced staff loyalty and commitment. This is a win for employees, their families and our customers.”

Yet, Zurich UK is not the only organisation that has rolled out some form of support for working parents during the coronavirus crisis.

Ella’s Kitchen’s parent-focussed plan

In a previous interview with HR Grapevine, Catherine Allen, Head of Keeping People Happy at Ella’s Kitchen talked about a parent-focussed plan that the firm had rolled out.

She said: “We put in place support for parents including an internal support group, a session with an external parenting coach, a virtual training programme working on mental health and resilience run over six weeks.   

“We also made sure our Mental Health First Aiders were available for 1-2-1 support, our employee assistance programme number was understood, and used, and provided external CBT and counselling in some cases.   

“Most of the leadership team have children, so it helped the rest of the team be open and honest about their experiences of lockdown when we spoke openly about our own struggles.”

Not all companies will have set policies in place to support working parents currently yet there are things that HR and employers can do to help those that are struggling. For example, employers can offer flexible working.

In addition to this, James Tamm, Director of Legal Services at employment law and HR support firm Ellis Whittam, previously told HR Grapevine that “the most obvious option would be to place [working parents] on furlough”.

“The latest guidance confirms that furlough is permitted for people who cannot attend work due to a requirement to care for dependents,” he added.

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Comments (1)

  • VeniVidiVici
    Thu, 7 Jan 2021 1:06pm GMT
    Blatant discrimination - yet again - against those who have no children, or with non qualifying older children. Thier colleagues have to then pick up all the work that the parents on "Lockdown Leave" will not do.
    A more "INCLUSIVE" policy would allow ALL workers an additional two weeks leave or the option to have it paid as additional salary.
    Zurich should be ashamed of their discriminatory, non-inclusive policy.

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