Hot topic: Bringing children to work

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An HR magazine article at the end of last year sparked much debate on the impact bringing children to work has on colleagues facing infertility issues

Seeing children around the workplace can be very difficult for employees facing problems with infertility or who may have lost a child. So should HR introduce 'children in the workplace' policies? And how could these cater to the needs of employees with and without children?

Jannine Flynn, technical services specialist and author of the original article, says:

"People view their workplace as their sanctuary, and when a child is brought into this there are employees who silently find it distracting, noisy or even upsetting. Staff should feel they are protected and that they can be productive, so a policy may safeguard this. HR should give all employees a chance to let them know in private if the policy affects their working lives.

"A policy containing a procedure where a parent informs their manager and HR of why, when, and for how long a child’s visit will be would benefit all. For newborn visits or in a childcare emergency the parent would feel confident bringing their child in if permission has been granted. Those known to be uncomfortable around children would be informed, prepared and protected from any upset. For any child visits other than the above HR and managers would need to evaluate the impact this may have on the parent and non-parent [colleagues] and decide on an alternative arrangement."

Esther Langdon, solicitor at Vedder Price, says:

"The issues around bringing children into work aren’t so much legally driven as driven by good employee relations.

"It’s hard to see how employees could reasonably argue they have a right to bring their children to work, and that not permitting them to do so would be discriminatory.

"Yet a proliferation of policies isn’t the answer. Having a written policy makes an issue where there isn’t one, and could create a sense of entitlement; not every scenario can or should be managed by dictatorial policies.

"Employers do need to look more broadly at flexible working issues. There are several reasons allowing children in the workplace could be counter-productive: such as getting in the way of work being done, and alienating or annoying other employees (especially those who may be experiencing infertility issues). However, if set within an overall approach that understands a small amount of flexibility can make a huge difference to working mothers, then allowing it on the odd occasion, in emergencies, or on more relaxed days is no bad thing."

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic

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