The consequences of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak are being felt around the world.
For many children, this means having to cope with disrupted education, family illness and loss of household income – things that disproportionately affect girls and boys from the poorest families.
By giving working parents the time and support they need to care for their children, workplace family-friendly policies – like paid parental leave, paid sick leave and flexible work arrangements help reduce the burden on children.
Here are six ways employers can support parents working to care for themselves, their children and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak:
1. Assess whether current workplace policies effectively support families.
Are existing policies supportive enough for families? Start by identifying the most pressing needs of working parents. Specific focus should be placed on vulnerable groups, such as temporary, informal, migrant, pregnant or nursing workers, workers with disabilities and those who lack access to benefits like paid sick leave.
2. Grant flexible work arrangements.
Flexible work arrangements give workers freedom over when and where they fulfil their job responsibilities. Because the needs of working parents can vary greatly, different types of flexible work arrangements support parents to care for their children and families. Flexible work arrangements include teleworking, compressing the work week or ensuring protected long-term leave so that workers can care for relatives who are sick, elderly or live with disabilities.
3. Promote good hygiene in and out of the workplace.
For parents who perform essential on-site duties, employers can protect them by maintaining clean and hygienic workplaces, and providing handwashing stations with running water and soap, or alcohol-based hand rubs where washing facilities are not readily available. Working mothers should be supported to continue breastfeeding in clean and comfortable breastfeeding facilities. Employers can also help protect all workers – including those who work remotely – by sharing key messages on prevention measures, travel guidance and ways to talk to their children about the virus.
4. Provide workers with guidance on how to seek medical support.
Employers can help direct workers who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to medical providers and services. For example, employers can clearly communicate the addresses and phone numbers of local hospitals, health authorities and emergency hotlines. They can also provide workers with guidance for safe transport to health-care providers.
5. Help workers and their families cope with stress.
Workplaces should provide special support for workers who feel anxious, confused or scared during the COVID-19 outbreak. They can also support working parents who are helping their children cope with anxiety and fear. Employers should ensure that only information from reliable sources is shared, and that all workers have access to psychosocial services. They should also give working parents the time and resources they need to comfort and care for their children. This includes providing helpful tools that encourage talk, play and other forms of stimulation that children need from caregivers.
6. Reduce financial burdens should workers or their family members fall ill with COVID-19.
Reducing the potential financial burdens of the COVID-19 outbreak for working parents is critical. Support measures can include employment protection, paid sick leave and economic transfers like child benefits and subsidies for health expenditures. Vulnerable groups such as low-income and informal workers should be provided with particular support.
Other useful resources:
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
20 Sept 2022
Leading the way in Tennant Creek
These Aboriginal educators are inspiring the next generation of First Nations children
18 Sept 2022
“We did not have hope that he would survive.”
Munaf suffered from a rare, deadly condition associated with COVID-19. This is how he recovered.
7 Sept 2022
Arlo Parks, a voice for the next generation
The award-winning UK musician met UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors for a chat about mental health and making an impact.
30 Aug 2022
Floods devastate one third of Pakistan
Children and families have lost their homes as flood waters wreak havoc. Here’s how UNICEF is responding.
21 July 2022
Hygiene and health go hand in hand
Ms. Nang, 25, is a teacher at a primary school in the Savannakhet province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Every morning, the rhythmic beat of a drum is the first sound that greets you in her classroom as she performs a roll call of her students using the class’s miniature-sized drum.
15 July 2022
Powerful photos reveal Ethiopia's worst drought in decades
After three failed consecutive rainy seasons, four countries across the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. Overall, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, 10 million children need urgent life-saving support, with 1.7 million children severely malnourished across the subregion.
15 June 2022
Why breastfeeding mums deserve our support
Breastfeeding is free, it doesn’t discriminate, it’s safe, it’s supported and backed by a global legal framework. Here’s why women should be supported to breastfeed, and how UNICEF is rising to the global challenge of helping women combine work and child-rearing.
24 May 2022
Olena is learning in an unlikely place: underground
Seven-year-old Olena lives in Ukraine, which has been under constant attack since the beginning of the war in February 2022.
25 Mar 2022
Where do children play in a war zone?
In the middle of war in Ukraine, UNICEF helps create the rarest of things: a safe place for children to play.
17 Mar 2022
“We need hope again.”
Children are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are bearing the greatest burden of its impact. UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors, Zara and Harrison, weigh in on what this decision means for children and young people around the country.
16 Mar 2022
How to talk to your children about coronavirus (COVID-19)
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you’re hearing about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) right now. Here's 8 tips on how to talk to your children.