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After being home for most of the last school year, many working parents and kids are looking forward to going back to in-person learning. However, it’s complicated:
It is not yet known how many parents will keep their children home when schools reopen. Most parents prefer their children to go to school for both educational and social reasons, but they also consider their health a high priority.
Consequently, working parents face a dilemma while assessing exposure risk for their children and juggling the responsibilities of parenthood with commitments to employers, other family members and their communities.
Multiple studies have been conducted and evidence suggests that schools can be reopened safely. One of the largest studies on COVID in schools in the United States looked at more than 90,000 students and teachers in North Carolina over nine weeks last autumn. When the researchers conducted contact tracing to identify school-related transmissions, they identified only 32 cases.
Studies that have included testing, seem to show low transmission rates as well. In Salt Lake City, UT, researchers offered tests to more than 1,000 students and staff who had come into contact with 51 pupils who had tested positive. Of the roughly 700 people who took the tests, only 12 came back positive. These studies suggest that students who contract the virus don’t tend to spread it at school.
Employers are encouraged to adopt family-friendly policies that apply equally to all employees, regardless of their gender, living situation or employment status. Promoting a culture in which workers feel comfortable using policies without fear of discrimination or retaliation is key. This is especially important for working mothers, who in many cases assume more care responsibilities than men, according to numerous surveys.
Here are some ways employers can support parents:
Giving working parents the time and support they need to care for their children helps relieve anxiety and promotes productivity. A positive track record in this area is also an effective recruitment tool at a time when many employers are struggling to find qualified employees.
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