Ask HR: How Can Employers Support Parents During the Pandemic?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP March 12, 2021

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.

As remote work—and, for many people, remote schooling—continues, how can providing parenting education in the workplace support parents in their role as employees? Eve S.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Work/life balance can be challenging and complex no matter the circumstances. This is especially true today when, for many, work is home and home is work.

As working parents and caregivers juggle personal and professional needs in a remote setting, there are ways organizations can support employees—and it starts with transparent communication with your manager and HR.

Open and honest conversations give employers better insight into employee needs and let employees explore the benefits their organization may already have in place, such as flexible scheduling and leave policies. These conversations also provide an opportunity to discuss other potential accommodations.

In addition, parenting education programs can help strengthen communication and conflict management skills, and provide professional guidance for integrating work and family responsibilities.

I also recommend reaching out to HR to see if your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP). In a changing workplace, this benefit has become more important than ever—providing resources like financial planning, telehealth services or counselors for ongoing support.

As I write this, one-third of female employed Americans personally know a woman who has voluntarily left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to caregiving responsibilities. With this in mind, providing reasonable accommodations are certainly top of mind for HR. In fact, 41 percent of HR professionals believe they can make an impact in 2021 by adapting flexible schedule and leave policies to better fit the needs of workers who are also caregivers.

At the end of the day, listening, empathizing and working together to find solutions can help organizations support their most valuable assets: employees.


Last year, I put together goals, which my manager deemed aligned to the organization. I did OK on my performance review and received a communication saying we would get performance bonuses. My new manager then told me because I am a contractor, I am not eligible to participate in the performance bonus program. Does this make sense to you? I am baffled by being asked to participate in the goal setting, which measures my performance, and then being told I won't get rewarded for achieving my goals. Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I understand why you think your employer's decision is unfair—you thought you would be eligible for a bonus based on what your previous boss shared. And when you work hard, it's natural to want to be rewarded for a job well done.

Unfortunately, things aren't always that simple.

First, I want to clarify the major differences between a regular employee and an independent contractor. An employee usually has specific work hours, is typically eligible for benefits, and receives a W-2 form and a performance review.

Independent contractors, however, often have a written agreement detailing goals, deliverables and scope of work. This agreement usually covers all compensation details, including any special bonus pay. Independent contractors often work for multiple clients and don't receive employee benefits. Performance evaluations and bonuses are usually not part of the employment agreement for contractors unless there is a specific clause in place.

Here's where it can get complex: A company could get into hot water if it classifies workers incorrectly as independent contractors. A golden rule is to have a clear distinction between the two sets of employees. This helps avoid potential violations under Department of Labor or Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

While I can't speak to the specifics of your situation, participating in a performance review and goal-setting process that makes you eligible for a bonus payout like all other employees could be viewed as treating you like an employee—yet not classifying you as one under law.

Here's what I recommend: Reach out to HR at the organization you're contracted with to confirm your true employment classification. If you are properly classified as an independent contractor, you should have a written agreement in place outlining exactly what your compensation will be. It's critical to review this document and make sure the company is providing the agreed-upon compensation.

Good luck, and I hope you can alleviate any confusion!



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