Many employees today face a tremendous amount of pressure for their time and energy both at home and at their place of work. One term used to describe this pressure is the “sandwich generation”. These employees are balancing the need to provide care to their aging parents and their children while still performing at work. What does this mean for an employers need to accommodate? Like many other situations where changes and understanding are needed, the key is communication. Providing alternative schedule solutions for employees struggling with home and work demands goes a long way. Often employees simply want the opportunity to make choices so that they can still perform well at their job and meet the demands of their home life. Understandably, not all employers have the ability to provide a flexible schedule to employees. Some operations require a fixed schedule of service. So what can be done in these cases? There are always options. Consider that some experts estimate the cost of recruiting, replacing and training a new hire employee is anywhere between 93-200% of an employees annual salary. This makes it prudent for employers to work on retaining their employees as they transition through the stages of commitments in their lives. Showing an understanding and compassion for employees will often lead to increased loyalty and engagement in their work. Accommodating employees is not only a compassionate choice or even a strategic organizational decision to ensure employee retention, to a certain extend, it is also the law. By not providing solutions to your employees, employers run the risk of discrimination claims based on family status. While the duty to accommodate falls on the employer, it is also the employees responsibility to seek out solutions and be flexible themselves on what the employer can provide. The solution need not be perfect, simply reasonable based on the situation and unique operational landscape of the business. While the solutions suggested may be appropriate for many, it is also valuable to consider seeking legal advice. An expert on human rights accommodation can provide further insight for employers.
Here are some suggestions for providing solutions to accommodate employees:
1) Consider allowing the employee to work remotely for a portion of their work week
2) Where possible, provide an alternate schedule. Perhaps an early or late start to their day.
3) Allow the employee to temporarily shift to a part time schedule
4) Provide job sharing. This can be particularly beneficial when multiple employees are requesting flexibility.
5) Provide a resource. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can provide information for employees such as finding child and elderly care support.
6) Above all communicate, communicate, communicate! Avoid making assumptions on what changes are needed for the employee. By speaking with the employee about their concerns, often a solution can be developed that meets the employees needs while still respecting the operational goals of the business.