How working parents can manage school holidays

by Liz Benson

Few things strike fear into the hearts of working parents like the spectre of school holidays. Unless you’re lucky enough to work from home and set your own hours, school holidays can completely disrupt your carefully-ordered routine.

For some parents, school holidays can get expensive with vacation care costs spiralling out of control. Others rely on grandparents and other relatives to take care of their children while they work. Some parents can take their children to work with them, which isn’t much fun for the kids or their parents (or their colleagues).

There are day camps for children with interests such as sports, art, coding or music.

For working parents it’s vital to find a way to juggle school holidays with your work schedule. Here are three of our top tips:

Be prepared

Do your research in advance. School holidays are gazetted years in advance, so you can map out when you’ll need to organise care for your kids, find out what programs are available and gauge your children’s interest, and ensure you have all the paperwork in place so they secure a spot early.

Don’t forget to find out what kind of rebates and concessions you could claim as well.

Call in favours and don’t forget to reciprocate

Other working parents can be a great support. This can include looking after each other’s children for set days, sharing childcare at home (some after-school carers are happy to take on some private work during the school holidays, for example), or sending friends to the same school holiday activities so they have a mate already.

Ask for flexibility

Most employers are obligated to provide flexible work options for employees who’ve been working in the business for 12 months or longer, as long as the request is reasonable. During the school holidays, working parents may be able to negotiate to work from home, work reduced hours, or take the holidays off altogether. This can be offset by working longer hours during school terms or by sacrificing some income to accommodate the flexibility.

It’s important to talk to your employer about how you plan to remain productive while accommodating your needs.

The traditional school and work timetables belong to a bygone era where only one parent worked, most families had two parents, and childcare wasn’t as necessary.

Some organisations are able to accept arrangements where employees take all the school holidays off while receiving a pro-rata salary. This helps them attract more and better-skilled staff members who may otherwise struggle to maintain a full-time job; which is frequently women with children. This is a valuable talent pool that organisations need to take advantage of, especially as so many industries suffer from ongoing skills gaps.

Becoming an employer of choice is key for organisations to improve their competitive edge. So, if you haven’t already discussed a flexible working arrangement with your employer, now may be the time to consider doing so.