School holidays are one of the greatest logistical challenges for working parents. While New Zealand school holidays total 11-12 weeks per year, most employees receive just 4 weeks annual leave. Even if both parents take their annual leave separately to cover the holiday period (and not take leave at the same time as their partner), they still come up short. Solo parents have an even greater challenge to cover the holiday period on their own.
Parents may be able to call on extended family but given that fewer people are retiring by age 65, grandparents could also be working. We’re also having children later, which means that grandparents are older and could struggle to race around the zoo with energetic grandchildren.
Extensive project planning is often needed to work out a timetable of various holiday programmes, extended family care, friend swaps, babysitting services, and time with parents.
Fortunately, some great employers are stepping up with flexible work options to help parents tackle the school holidays.
EY, Harrison Grierson, Transpower and Aurecon offer the option of purchasing extra annual leave. This option is open to all staff, for any reason (not just school holidays), and the length varies by employer. For example, Aurecon offers employees the opportunity to purchase up to four weeks additional leave.
Flexi-hours, and the ability to work from home also can be critical in school holidays. Employers like Vodafone, MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Paymark and the University of Auckland offer the ability to occasionally work remotely (where possible).
Creating a workplace culture which supports parents to spend time with their children in school holidays is also important. Employees shouldn’t be made to feel that they are letting down their team, placing a burden on workmates, or receiving an exclusive privilege by utilising flexible work options in school holidays. Mainstreaming flexible work for everyone is an important way of addressing this stigma, along with providing adequate coverage during an employee’s absence.
We’re all part of a wider eco-system, and employers play an important role in helping New Zealand families raise great tamariki to lead our country into the future.