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Ask HR: Should I Ask My Employer for Help Finding Child Care?

​Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

My company is scheduled to return to in-office work in the fall. I have two children, one in first grade and one in preschool. During the pandemic, several area child care centers closed, and I am afraid that I may not be able to find child care in time to return to work. How should I request help from my company? —Gerry

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Count yourself among the many people scrambling to secure child care during the pandemic. While that fact doesn't make it any easier, being flexible in your search can improve your outlook.

Before approaching your company for assistance, make sure you do your due diligence. If you haven't done so already, expand your search to include child care centers near work, home and locations in between. Ask if the closed centers have a tentative reopen date and, if so, get on their enrollment or waiting lists. Many parents are on several lists. As they find a child care provider, they remove themselves from other lists. Some child care centers allow parents to register children for a later start date. Many schools offer before-school and after-school programs, so you may want to check with your children's schools, as well. 

You may also find child care through family, friends and neighborhood discussion boards. If you have an employee assistance program (EAP) at work, contact them for assistance. Often, they will have a listing of child care locations to help in your search.  

If you still find yourself unable to secure child care, schedule a discussion with your manager. Let them know you are actively seeking child care, but you may need more time to procure it. Your employer may allow you to continue to work remotely while trying to secure child care. You may also want to discuss other flexible plans that would allow you to care for your children while continuing to work. This may include reduced hours or working a partial week in the office and from home the remainder of the week. Your employer may also be open to modifying when you come to and leave work.

A survey of employers reveals that 86 percent plan to implement more-flexible work arrangements for employees facing child care issues, but it's important to communicate with your employer to find a solution.

Ensuring our children are properly cared for is our chief priority as parents. At times, balancing this need with a career that enables us to do so is challenging. I hope you and your company can arrive at a mutual agreement, and I wish you the best in juggling work life and parenting during this uncertain time.

I was hired in March. I like the company overall, but more and more, I am finding that my manager's expectations differ widely from the job description I applied for. And the volume of work seems to be greater as well. Who should I approach about finding a resolution? Is it reasonable to request a transfer so early on? —Melvin

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: While this is certainly a challenging situation to be in, it isn't uncommon these days. Fortunately, you have a few avenues to find a resolution that works for you and your career.

Under normal circumstances you would want to speak with your manager or a representative in HR. Given today's economic climate and with COVID-19 still looming, there are more variables to consider before sitting down to talk. Many employers have had to shift or add job duties to meet fluctuating demands. This could mean your job description is outdated or temporary responsibilities have been added. Typically, this may be reflected in a job description as "other duties as assigned."

Given that you are new to the position, you are likely in some form of an orientation period. This is an ideal time to establish a relationship with your manager to grow your understanding of the expectations of the role. If you are having trouble meeting the needs or understanding the priorities, have a candid conversation with your manager. Let them know that you could use additional support or guidance with prioritizing tasks.

If you find your manager to be unreceptive to the discussion or don't believe you can achieve the support you seek, HR would be your next option. They may be better qualified to help you navigate the situation or explain options for a potential transfer. HR will have a broader understanding of the talent and skill needs across your organization. They might be your best shot at finding a situation that better aligns your needs and the business. HR can assess if the job description needs updating or if the organization needs to do a better job explaining positions during the interview process.

I'll say this: Although a transfer might be your preferred outcome, the request could trigger some unintentional consequences. Some organizations may interpret your concerns as poor work ethic or a lack of culture fit. Employees who are willing to go above and beyond are valued individuals. So frame any transfer request around finding a fit to enable better work performance and greater contributions to the company.

I encourage you to meet with your manager, and possibly HR, to find a mutual solution that benefits your organization and your career. Don't ignore your feelings. Find a way to share them professionally with your manager and see if you both can find a solution. Good luck.


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