Human Resources

Human Resources

Human Resources

site header

Flexible Working arrangements for Staff with caregiving responsibilities

A Guide for Managers

Queen's is committed to creating and designing work environments that respect the unique abilities and needs of all employees and that set employees up for success.

The university recognizes that staff have been faced with significant challenges as a result of COVID-19, including striking a balance between work, childcare and other caregiving responsibilities.

This guide offers managers direction and resources for working with employees who are balancing caregiving with the realities of a changing work environment.  Managers play a critical role in letting staff know they have choices and that their workplaces value diversity, equity and inclusion.  By creating options and helping employees explore possibilities, we can support employees in managing the demands being placed on both their personal and professional time.

While some employees may need to discuss more formal accommodations for caregiving responsibilities with their supervisors, there are many things managers can do to make their workplaces more accessible to staff who are balancing multiple responsibilities, including caregiving responsibilities, while working at home. Managers should work with their employees and discuss possible adjustments to their work schedule that may be required due to caregiving responsibilities.

The following guidelines are provided to assist Managers in supporting staff through this pandemic and in creating a welcoming and accessible environment for people with diverse needs:

  • Assess: Think about your operation and the essential work to be done.  As we are all learning, there may, in fact, be multiple ways in which your unit’s objectives can be achieved, for example, allowing employees to work unusual hours to complete their work.  Consider also how might the work that needs to be performed be reimagined, reprioritized, or restructured to respond to changes in the public health situation?  Recognize that this is not a “business as usual” environment.  For many units, flexibility will be necessary and is possible.
  • Communicate that flexible hours are available to staff where operations allow.  In some cases, caregivers may be able to effectively juggle their time during their workdays with little or no operational disruption. Where possible, let staff decide how to manage their day. Not only will this nurture a positive professional relationship, but it will also allow employees to work optimally. 
  • Support staff by communicating with them regularly. Review their workloads and check-in on their well-being. Be open about the realities and difficulties of extra responsibilities such as caregiving for family members during this time. Let your employees know that you will respect their confidentiality.
  • Focus on mutual trust, so that you can ensure that your staff are honest about their ability to perform their tasks and that they are comfortable coming to you for support if they need it. 
  • Be open to Connecting with kids!  You will likely be interacting with your team via video calls. This means you will be getting a glimpse into their private lives, their homes, and their children. Accept that some parents will need to attend virtual meetings with kids in the room or even in their laps. Understand that for many parents this is the most effective way to work. Be flexible and open to minor distractions.

Sometimes staff will require more ongoing, structured arrangements than just occasional, minor flexibility.  In such cases, the best way to support your employees may be to discuss further solutions that would accommodate their caregiving responsibilities. 

Some accommodation options you and your employees might further explore include: 

  • Allowing employees to continue to work remotely even after the campus opens up;
  • Reducing hours of work:  
    • An employee can request a Reduced Period of Responsibility appointment,
    • Schedule vacation and /or lieu time, or
    • Work a flexible schedule with adjusted hours of work, or days of work (including weekends);
  • The ability to take irregular breaks or to work irregular hours so that they can look after children during working hours;  
  • Modifying job duties to allow the employee to work in a position where the disruptions are not problematic, for example, allowing the ability to work in the evening;
  • Taking a Protected Leave under the Employment Standards Act, if eligible.

If you receive a formal Accommodation request or are unsure about when a more formalized Accommodation arrangement is needed, or if you’d like to discuss various options, please consult with your Human Resources Advisor.