Flexibility in childcare, responsibility of the employee?

Children are taken care of in various pedagogical practices such as schools, sport clubs, youth movements, and part-time arts education. However, scheduling work for parents becomes a challenge due to the different places and timings each child needs to attend. Even hobbies, errands, and extra care for family members add to the complexity of planning. It's not easy to synchronize the clocks of all the life domains of all family members, especially if there is no family nearby, and not every family can afford a daily babysitting service. In the European project PACE, we researched how this could be done better.

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Should employers take on more responsibility?

Employers often claim to pay attention to work-life balance in job ads, but they mostly see the planning as the responsibility of the employee. Work requirements often dominate parents' lives, and they must organize all other tasks around their work schedule. Most Flemish employers realize the difficulty of combining work and family, but they look to childcare for new solutions. Unfortunately, childcare initiatives are not flexible enough, and few of them are open in the evenings or on weekends. Also, daycare centres fix care days far in advance, which clashes with unpredictable working hours.

Why should all responsibility lie with childcare and parents? Employers can take advice from childcare providers to help families combine tasks from different areas of life more easily. During the Interreg2Zeeën project, four insights emerged that can help employers. Firstly, employers should consider the 'why' and how children and employees feel. Secondly, employers need to shape their core values in other ways. Thirdly, finding support for families can relieve their stress. Lastly, employers should also share the cost of extra childcare expenses with parents, who already sacrifice comfort by working at socially difficult hours with higher financial burdens.

It's time for employers to take action to help families smoothly combine tasks from different areas of life. Employers can synchronize work shifts with the opening hours of nearby schools and nurseries, just like a British hotel chain has decided to do. This will benefit both current and future employees.

Download the book Flexibility in Childcare

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