Council asks WFH parents to focus on work

'A workspace is a workspace regardless of where it is'

Council asks WFH parents to focus on work

Bayside Council employees in Sydney have reportedly been advised to sign waivers stating they will “not have primary care responsibilities” for children seven years old and below. The advice came to light as staff members returned to working from home amid NSW’s COVID-19 lockdown. In an email, the council purportedly told workers they are prohibited from “supervising home learning” during this period of remote working.

A council spokesperson confirmed to The Sydney Morning Herald the group’s standard work-from-home policy is not appropriate for employees who are trying to home-school young children while accomplishing their regular office duties. “However, at this time during the lockdown, [the] council is providing greater flexibility to affected employees and this can be discussed with their manager,” the representative said. “A workspace is a workspace regardless of where it is.”

Read more: Sydney lockdown to be extended for 7 days

 If employees are unable to find alternative arrangements, then they can choose between going on an annual leave, sending their children to school, or taking on their office tasks outside of school hours. The council also said it sent out the same type of waiver on home-schooling back in March 2020, but that the policy was eventually discontinued.

Despite facing criticism that the waiver is “anti-family,” the council promised to prioritise employees’ health and safety with its WFH policy. However, neither the federal nor the state government will provide indemnity for this legal obligation, the spokesperson said.

Read more: Sydney suburbs in lockdown as COVID cluster grows

The challenge of supervising home learning and caring for young children is part of a growing trend in Australia in which working parents are forced to juggle work with family care duties. The phenomenon affects women more so than men, reports suggest. This year, for example, about 116,000 working women were purportedly forced to leave the workforce because of family care obligations compared to only 34,000 men who faced the same predicament.

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